Listen, it’s Christmas time. You have to reach your destination. About 113 million people are expected to travel nationwide over the Christmas holiday weekend, according to AAA. That’s about 3% more than last year. The majority travel at least 80 km by car, the rest by plane or train.
Here’s what you should know before you go.
Here’s the good news. For those driving on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and any time of year around New Year’s Eve, western Washington has much warmer and wetter weather in store. Until then, a nasty transition period with continued deep freezes and a return to mild wet weather on Thursday night and Friday.
The transition will be accompanied by snow, with freezing showers later on Friday before turning to regular rain. Traveling during this period is not recommended. If last-minute holiday shopping is on your to-do list, Friday night and Saturday are your chances to get it done with the heat and wet roads.
Consider possible snow delays and avalanche control when traversing cascades. Carry chains or other cold-weather gear and be prepared to use chains in some situations. Eastern Washington will remain cold with snow, but temperatures will moderate from recent single digits.
If you want to avoid delays and frustration due to traffic, plan to travel around the next peak hour based on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Holiday Weekend Travel Chart based on years of traffic data please.
Friday and Saturday are the busiest days for eastbound travel through Stevens Pass. Keep in mind that Friday’s mountain weather can get dangerous with snow and freezing rain. Back westbound, traffic peaks Mondays from around 10am to around 6pm. If you’re climbing to enjoy the slopes, remember that parking spaces are limited and parking on the shoulder of US 2 is not permitted.
If you take the Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, it’s busiest to head east on Thursdays and Fridays. Again, the weather on Friday will be that bad. Coming back from eastern Washington or heading east over the pass will be pretty busy on Monday. Peak drive hours are 10am to 7pm in both directions. To keep track of the eligibility criteria, WSDOT pass report Twitter account.
If heading south toward Portland, it’s busy Thursday through Saturday mornings and nights. On the return journey, traffic is again the heaviest on Mondays and Tuesdays from mid-morning to early evening.
There are no travel charts for Bellingham from the north, but expect traffic to be similar to that for Portland over the holiday weekend. For up-to-date information on road conditions in the state, visit WSDOT Road site.
If you plan to use the ferry system, please be aware that the Washington State Ferry continues to be understaffed and scheduling may need to be adjusted. For the latest ferry schedules, visit twitter siteThe busiest ferry days are Thursday to Saturday westbound and Monday and Tuesday eastbound.
Another good news for vacation travel is the gas pump. Prices have continued to drop since Thanksgiving, reaching their lowest price in over a year and a half. As of last weekend, the average price across Washington was $3.83 per gallon, well below his $4.00. Several stations on either side of the Cascades currently offer gasoline for about $3.00 a gallon.
If you fly through Sea-Tac Airport on a holiday weekend, it’s a busy place and cold weather doesn’t help. We are actively adjusting our schedules during times of high demand. Nearly one million passengers are expected to move through the airport during the holiday period, when Friday is the busiest. Unfortunately, severe winter weather presents more challenges on Friday.
TSA security checkpoints are busiest from 5am to 10am, 2pm to 5pm, and 9pm to 11pm. The airport has a new SEA Spot Saver TSA screening booking program that does not require membership. You can pre-schedule your security screening appointments to reduce waiting times. The SEA Spot Saver is open to all airline passengers at TSA Checkpoints 2 and 5 from 5am to 1pm and at Checkpoint 3 from 5am to 10pm.
Parking and dropping off/picking up passengers at the airport is also difficult. North Sound travelers are encouraged to use the new Northgate Sound Transit Light Rail for a cost-effective and timely arrival at the airport. Authorities are asking passengers to arrive two hours before his flight time, preferably three hours before he. If you drive to the airport, you can use the arrivals floor to drop off passengers as the upper departures floor will be very busy.
Paine Field in Snohomish County is another story. Paine Field Passenger Terminal is busier than usual, but far less crowded than Sea-Tac. According to the Paine Field website, the flight schedule is mostly on time. Alaska Airlines now operates 10 daily flights from Paine Field, including a new route to Anchorage. Kenmore Airlines also flies to and from the San Juan Islands.
Amtrak rail service to and from the North Sound will also be busy, but has ample capacity. According to Amtrak, the busiest days for travel are Thursdays and Fridays before holidays, and return Mondays and Tuesdays.
Wherever you travel this holiday weekend, plan ahead to avoid stress, travel safely, and enjoy the holiday weekend with your family and friends.
KIRO FM News Follow meteorologist Ted Buehner. twitter