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White Christmas? Pack patience and tire chains if you're traveling
OLYMPIA – A white Christmas? Could be – at least in the mountains. Forecasts call for a snowstorm to hit the mountain passes just in time for Christmas holiday travel, and travelers should plan to pack tire chains and a winter kit alongside presents before hitting the road.
Weather forecasts show a storm system moving into the mountains late Saturday, Dec. 24, into Sunday, Dec. 25. Heavy snow could hit areas above 2,500 feet, which includes all Washington’s mountains pass highways.
Travelers can prevent additional delays by driving for conditions. Collisions caused by drivers who are unprepared for winter weather cause delays for everyone. Just one traffic collision or disabled vehicle can back up traffic for miles during already-congested holiday weekends.
Washington State Department of Transportation crews and equipment are ready. Drivers should be prepared, check travel and roadway conditions on the WSDOT website and pack their winter weather supplies, including tire chains.
To give travelers a break from construction delays, work at most road construction sites around the state will move off the highway by noon Friday, Dec. 23. Drivers should be prepared for shifted lanes, detours and reduced-speed zones.
Those in the Seattle area should also remember the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, at Century Link Field. Traffic will be heavy before and after the game.
Expected traffic delays
Based on historical data, WSDOT expects traffic to be heavy at various times Friday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Dec. 26.
Interstate 5: Bellingham to the U.S./Canada border
• Drivers can expect increased traffic northbound and southbound most of the day Friday, Dec. 23, and Monday, Dec. 26.
• WSDOT models also show lower-than-normal traffic volumes Saturday, Dec. 24, and Sunday, Dec. 25.
I-5: Olympia to Tacoma
• Expect increasing northbound and southbound congestion from late morning to early evening on Friday, Dec. 23, and Monday, Dec. 26.
• During later hours Saturday, Dec. 24, expect congestion.
• During early afternoon hours Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25, models show possible southbound congestion is expected
• Expect heavy post-holiday shopping traffic near malls Monday, Dec. 26.
US 2: Stevens Pass
• WSDOT does not expect congestion, however winter conditions could impact traffic or bring more winter sports enthusiasts to the mountains.
I-90: Snoqualmie Pass
• Expect westbound congestion 3-6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26.
• When the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fall on a weekend, traffic historically increases nearly 40 percent compared to a typical December weekend.
• Historic traffic volumes during the Christmas holiday are 12 percent lower than Thanksgiving.
• Visit the Snoqualmie Mountain Pass Web page for real-time travel information and traffic cameras.
Know before you go
• WSDOT offers several ways to get up-to-date weather, traffic and construction information from our website before you leave your home or office.
• Carry chains and know the traction and chain requirements.
• Call 511. WSDOT’s driver information phone line provides real-time traffic, incident and closure information. Out-of-state callers can dial 1-800-695-ROAD (7623). TTY users can call 1-800-833-6388.
• Sign up for email updates, and social media tools, such as Facebook.
• Follow us on Twitter @wsdot, @wsdot_traffic, @wsdot_passes, @wsdot_tacoma, @SnoqualmiePass.
On the road
• Overhead and roadside electronic signs provide emergency and incident alerts and point-to-point travel times in some Seattle-area locations during rush hours. Use roadside travel time signs to help judge the time to reach your destination.
• Highway advisory radio allows drivers to hear updates when the flashing lights along the highway are activated. Program 530 AM and 1610 AM on your radio before you leave and tune in when signs are flashing.
• Ask a passenger to use one of the many Mobile Applications available.
Amtrak Rail Services
• All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations, and passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early to obtain lowest fares. Trains fill up quickly so please make your reservations as early as possible. Visit www.AmtrakCascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for reservations and information.
Washington State Ferries (WSF)
• Check www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries for more information.
• To check the status of state-operated airports, visit the state aviation website or call 1-800-552-0666. WSDOT Aviation encourages pilots to check with their local Flight Service Station for current Notices to Airmen and temporary flight restriction status before each flight.
· Check with your local transit agency for more information.
Hyperlinks within the news release:
•WSDOT weather page www.wsdot.com/traffic/weather/
• WSDOT winter weather driving information www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter
• WSDOT online tools www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic
• WSDOT social media and mobile apps www.wsdot.wa.gov/Inform