Holiday travelers can expect a white Christmas on mountain passes

December 21, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 3 p.m. Dec. 21, 2011

Travelers can expect a white Christmas on Washington mountain passes.

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 gifts before hitting the road.

Meteorologists said to expect a storm system moving into the mountains late Saturday, Christmas Eve, into Sunday, Christmas, and heavy snow could hit areas above 2,500 feet — or all Washington mountain pass highways.

If 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 rank 12 percent lower than Thanksgiving.

The state Department of Transportation said travelers can prevent additional delays by driving for conditions. Collisions caused by drivers unprepared for winter weather cause delays for other motorists.

State transportation planners offer many ways for motorists to monitor travel conditions:

  • Dial 511, the driver information phone line to provide current traffic, incident and closure information. TTY users can call 800-833-6388 toll free and out-of-state callers can access the information at 800-695-7623 toll free.
  • On the agency’s travel website,, drivers can see information, such as camera images and maps, showing highway incidents and closures.
  • The agency also provides traveler information on TwitterFacebook and for mobile devices. Motorists can also sign up for specialized email alerts.
  • On the road, the agency provides real-time traffic updates on overhead and roadside electronic signs and on Highway Advisory Radio on AM channels 530 and 1610.

The state has prepared crews and equipment for the holiday snow. Motorists should also be prepared, check travel and roadway conditions on the Department of Transportation website and pack winter weather supplies, including tire chains.

Statewide, work at most road construction sites around is scheduled to move off of highway by noon Friday. Motorists should be prepared for shifted lanes, detours and reduced-speed zones.

Expect to experience significant holiday travel delays or winter weather at U.S. 2, Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 at the Canadian border, and between Olympia and Tacoma.

Expect westbound congestion from 3-6 p.m. Dec. 26 at Snoqualmie Pass as motorists return to Western Washington.


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