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A WSDOT employee was safe after a natural avalanche buried equipment while clearing snow

(CHINOOK PASS)– 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 at approximately 10 a.m. Thursday.  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.

Due to continued avalanche danger, WSDOT took every precaution necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible during the rescue mission. The employee was well-protected in the bulldozer: he had enough ventilation to receive fresh air and was safe to remain where he was until crews could free him.

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 Day weekend.  However, this week the pass received more than a foot of snow and warmer temperatures increased avalanche danger.

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


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