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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cold and COVID-19 disrupt travel by plane, train and automobile in Spokane and across Washington

Dec. 29, 2021 Updated Wed., Dec. 29, 2021 at 9:40 p.m.

Travel plans for Spokane drivers and flyers continued to be disrupted Wednesday as the state experienced arctic cold temperatures and a surge in new coronavirus cases.

The Spokane International Airport around 9 a.m. Wednesday reported 14 delays and two cancellations for flights leaving the airport, according to the airport’s online flight tracker. For flights coming into Spokane, two were canceled and three were delayed by about an hour.

Stacey Gansar, a Seattle resident, watched Monday evening as her son boarded his delayed but rescheduled flight back to New Orleans.

Gansar checked on her own flight: it was canceled. No other flights would get Gansar back to Seattle until Wednesday afternoon, she said.

In the meantime, Delta Air Lines set Gansar up in a Spokane hotel room, she said.

“But it’s still two days in a hotel when I was supposed to be home,” Gansar said. “Today I said, no matter what, I’m getting home.”

By 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, the airport’s flight tracker listed four delayed departing flights and one canceled. Two arriving flights were delayed and one coming in from Seattle was canceled by Delta Air Lines, the flight tracker showed.

All of Spokane’s arriving or departing canceled flights as of Wednesday morning were Delta Air Lines routes. Delta representatives said the company was dealing with a surge of omicron cases that led to staff shortages.

Washington reported the highest number of coronavirus cases tallied in a single day on Tuesday, with the possibility of an upward trend in Spokane County, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

Alaska Airlines accounted for eight of the 14 departing flight delays Wednesday morning, according to the flight tracker.

Brenda Vogel, who was traveling to Las Vegas for a concert, said she considered herself lucky her flight had not been canceled.

“It seems like our flight is on time for now,” she said. “But I’m checking a lot more often. We travel a lot, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”

Vogel said the spike in COVID-19 cases was causing her more concern than her flights.

“You just never know whether people will be masked or how many people are vaccinated, so that’s something I’m a little worried about,” Vogel said.

Mark Sahn, who flew into Spokane from Oakland, said he was nervous about his flight Wednesday morning because of the airport delays.

“But I had no problems whatsoever,” said Sahn, who planned to drive to Coeur d’Alene to visit family.

Gansar said she considered a rental car to drive herself back to Seattle. But the roads were not much better Wednesday after temperatures dipped into the single digits Tuesday night and snow flurries coated the mountain passes in ice.

Multiple spinouts closed westbound Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass at milepost 70 from 6:45 a.m. to 7:38 a.m. Wednesday, the Washington state Department of Transportation tweeted.

The Snoqualmie Pass transportation account tweeted that several semitrucks driving too fast across the passes Tuesday jack-knifed and closed the westbound lanes.

The department told drivers to expect difficult travel conditions, especially on the Cascade passes, from Wednesday night to Thursday night, with the heaviest snow expected to fall Thursday afternoon.

In Spokane, meteorologists predicted a chance of snow after 10 p.m. Wednesday. The city is expected to see 1 to 2 inches of snow Thursday through early Friday, the weather service said.

Affected routes included I-90 and Stevens Pass on U.S. Highway 2, and White Pass on U.S. Highway 12, the department tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Randall Leffler, who traveled from Los Angeles to visit family in Montana for the holidays, said poor weather conditions delayed his Amtrak train coming from Whitefish, Montana, to Spokane by four hours Wednesday.

He took the train because it cost less than flying from Spokane to the nearest airport in Montana, and “I really like the train, actually,” he said.

Leffler’s scheduled flight home was supposed to leave at 5:20 a.m. The train did not pull into Spokane until 6 a.m. With other flights experiencing hiccups, Leffler was only able to get a standby ticket to Denver, where he said he will hope for the best in getting back home to Los Angeles.

“I just have to stay here until I can get on a flight,” Leffler said.

More snow-covered roads were expected Thursday for the Palouse, central Idaho Panhandle and Camas Prairie, the weather service said. A winter storm warning was issued for the 24-hour period from 4 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday for much of the Palouse. Heavy snow of around 4 to 6 inches was expected to pound the areas around Tekoa, Rosalia, Pullman, Uniontown, Moscow and Potlach, according to the weather service advisory.

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