Sea-Tac trip might be easier than you think

If you’re dreading a holiday mob scene at Sea-Tac Airport this week, calm yourself. Neither the size of the crowds nor weather-related issues are causing any special holiday angst at the airport, say airport officials.

And if you’re hanging around the South Sound, be prepared: The weather will stay cold and clear through the holiday, but rain and maybe even snow could be coming on the heels of Thanksgiving.

Here’s the latest for travelers and homebodies:


Icy, rainy and windy weather on the East Coast and in some parts of the Southeast created little disruption to air traffic at Sea-Tac Airport on Tuesday. Through midafternoon, delays and cancellations locally were at a normal or even a bit below normal level.

And crowds, contrary to popular belief, aren’t outsized at least compared with the airport’s peak summertime days, airport spokesman Perry Cooper said.

Some 90,000 passengers are expected to use Sea-Tac on Wednesday, the busiest day of Thanksgiving week. That compares with summertime numbers that routinely hit 100,000 during July and August and peak crowds of 105,000 or more during the warmer months.

Airport usage is up about 4.7 percent this year, but the airport’s facilities still have ample capacity, the airport spokesman said.

Cooper shared some tricks for navigating the airport successfully:

 • If the arrival lanes are overcrowded with cars trying to pick up friends and relatives, switch your pickup point to the departure level, where traffic is likely not as heavy.

 • Use the airport’s cellphone lot north of the terminal to wait for your passengers. After they’ve claimed their bag and moved outside, they can call you to move to the terminal. Waiting in the pickup lanes is illegal.

 • Park in the airport garage while you’re waiting. A few dollars spent for a parking spot on the easily accessible fourth floor can save much hassling on the drives.


Temperatures will remain in the high 40s, maybe rising into the low 50s, through Monday. Rain is expected by Saturday morning with a chance of snow entering the forecast Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

An air stagnation warning will be in effect through Thursday as pollution worsens in Western Washington. A Stage 2 burn ban remains in effect in Pierce County. It curtails burning in certified and noncertified wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves, fireplace inserts or pellet stoves.

The only exception is if a wood stove is the home’s only adequate source of heat. Violators face a $1,000 penalty.

For those hoping to get above the stagnant air, mountain weather is cooperating. Daytime highs progressively get colder as the week goes on, registering at 51 Wednesday and dipping to 24 by Monday.

Forecasters said it will be clear until Friday, when rain and snow could hit. Powder is predicted for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.


State Route 123 over Cayuse Pass is closed for the season in Mount Rainier National Park from the summit to Stevens Canyon Road.

Chinook Pass and state Route 20 (North Cascades Highway) are open.

There were reports of ice and frost on some sections of mountain passes, but there were no restrictions Tuesday on Snoqualmie Pass, White Pass or state Route 410 from Greenwater to Crystal Mountain.


Drivers can get real-time traffic and weather information by dialing 511 from most phones.

People planning to hop a state ferry are advised to travel outside peak times and buy tickets early. Check schedules at

The state Department of Transportation added four Amtrak Cascades trains to the Thanksgiving schedule between Seattle and Portland to accommodate more travelers. Visit for more information.