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Holiday travel getting tougher

Mon., Dec. 22, 2008, 12:41 p.m.

Crews remove snow along Cedar in Spokane, Wash. Tuesday, December 23, 2008. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Crews remove snow along Cedar in Spokane, Wash. Tuesday, December 23, 2008. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Holiday travelers in the Inland Northwest had better get where they are going by noon on Wednesday. Otherwise, they may be in for another wintry nightmare.

And that also goes for Santa Claus, according to the National Weather Service. “That is, if he can get here,” meteorologist Steve Bodnar said.

The forecast calls for possible light snow showers today before the next big storm starts to drop snow on the Cascades by midnight, Bodnar said. Light snow early Wednesday will turn into heavy accumulations by the afternoon, dumping 6 to 10 inches in Spokane and 8 to 12 inches in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Bodnar said.

So far, some 39.4 inches of snow has fallen at Spokane International Airport. That’s only 6 inches shy of the 30-year seasonal average.

“Folks need to plan accordingly for Christmas Eve for sure,” he said. “They need to try to get their travel done early in the day because by the afternoon, it will start to deteriorate for the Idaho Panhandle and Eastern Washington.”

Airlines canceled numerous flights out of Spokane International Monday, primarily due to continuing problems at the Seattle and Portland airports. Those two cities, like much of the region, have been paralyzed by heavy snow and freezing temperatures.

All Greyhound buses into and out of Spokane were cancelled Monday, officials said.

“We will remain closed in Spokane, Seattle and Portland until further notice,” said Abby Wambaugh, a Greyhound spokeswoman.

Passengers trying to leave out of any of those locations should call (800) 231-2222 or phone their local terminal to see if it’s open again, Wambaugh said.

Travelers planning to drive can still get through Snoqualmie and Stevens passes at this point, but traction devices are recommended, officials said.

“It’s severe winter driving conditions,” said Al Gilson, a Washington Department of Transportation spokesman. People should carry chains, bring warm clothes, food and water, and be prepared to have plans change at any moment.

“People need to dial 511 or call the Washington Department of Transportation before traveling,” Gilson said. “Storms keep coming in and there’s no way to predict how bad it’s going be. It’s a tough season.”

Amtrak was still running routes into Spokane Monday, but with significant delays.

A jet stream shift is expected to bring highs in the lower to mid 30s in Spokane on Saturday. But a weather system could bring either freezing rain or snow will move in Saturday.

And another similar storm is expected Sunday into Monday, Bodnar said.

“Areas in southeast Washington will probably experience rain,” he said. “But the snow line will probably be close to Spokane and north of here. These systems look like definitely heavy snow for the mountains. So it’s at least good for the ski areas.”

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