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May 16, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Falling boulders destroy car, close road at Mount Rainier

Several boulders have fallen on Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park. (National park photo)

Several boulders have fallen on Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park. (National park photos)

West Side Road #4 (2)Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park is closed until further notice.

A park crew on Thursday discovered that several large boulders — one as big as a truck — had fallen from Mount Wow onto Westside Road at the Dry Creek public parking area. Nobody saw the rockfall, and nobody was injured, according to a park news release.

However, one boulder struck a parked car, causing severe damage. Some of the boulders, which were strewn across the parking lot, caused large craters, one of them 8 feet across and 3 feet deep, the news release says.

The falling boulders also damaged a park gate.

The park geomorphologist is looking into what caused the rockfall and will gauge the chances that there might be more of them. When it’s determined to be safe, park crews will remove the boulders and fix the road and gate.

The national park also warns visitors that the road between Nisqually and Paradise, the most often used entry for several park destinations, is undergoing construction. Pavement has been removed at about 20 locations on the seven miles between the park gate and Longmire.

The dirt and gravel areas are wide enough for buses and RVs, the park says in a release. The dug-out areas are engineered for easy transition to and from the paved roadway. The park warns drivers against creating a dangerous situation by changing lanes to avoid the dug-out areas and urges drivers to slow as they approach them.

Finally, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Friday that it had opened Cayuse Pass, Highway 410, which cuts across the park. The department says Chinook Pass, Highway 123, will reopen next week in time for Memorial Day weekend.

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