A natural avalanche swept down the hillside of State Route 410 over Chinook Pass Thursday morning, trapping an employee inside a piece of equipment for several hours.

Washington State Department of Transportation crews were performing routine snow clearing when the avalanche occurred Thursday morning.  An employee working in a bulldozer about a mile east of the summit quickly radioed to crews that snow had covered his bulldozer to the top of the cab and he was trapped. Fortunately, he wasn’t injured and WSDOT avalanche crews were able to free him from the bulldozer just before 3 p.m. Thursday.

 

Since April 2, crews have been busy plowing and blasting their way through heavy snow in order to reopen Chinook Pass to traffic by Memorial weekend. However, this week the pass received more than a foot of snow and warmer temperatures increased avalanche danger.

 “This work is very challenging,” said Don Whitehouse, WSDOT regional administrator. “Even though we take every precaution necessary to keep our people safe, it still comes with risk. Safety is our number one priority, and although our target every year is to reopen the pass by Memorial Day weekend, the safety of our crews comes first.”

If conditions improve, crews plan to resume clearing efforts next week and reopen the pass by Memorial Day weekend.