Travel woes ongoing in Washington state amid winter storm

Dec 26, 2022, 7:17 AM
Officials warn drivers to be cautious and make sure that their cars have enough traction for the roads when traveling along mountain passes this weekend. (Photo from Washington State Patrol)
(Photo from Washington State Patrol)

Freezing rain, ice and snowy conditions complicated road and air travel in Washington state, where mountainous portions of two major roadways were closed in both directions Saturday afternoon, officials said.

Interstate 90 was closed along more than 70 miles (113 kilometers) because of freezing rain and avalanche danger, state transportation officials said. The closure includes Snoqualmie Pass and extends from North Bend to Ellensburg.

“This is going to be an extended closure with no ETA to open,” the Washington Department of Transportation said on Twitter.

Nearly 35 miles (56 kilometers) of U.S. Highway 2, including Stevens Pass, are also closed because of freezing rain and icy conditions, according to the agency.

An ice storm warning was in effect Saturday afternoon for the Cascades in Snohomish and King Counties, according to the National Weather Service. The agency has forecast ice accumulations of up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) in the western approaches to the mountain passes in the area.

The winter storm that has paralyzed large swaths of the country over the past week has thrust snow, freezing rain, ice and frigid temperatures upon Washington state, leading to hundreds of flights being canceled and delayed and creating dangerous driving conditions during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

State troopers responded to more than 200 vehicle crashes on Friday alone in western Washington, state trooper Kelsey Harding told KING 5, describing roadways that looked like ice skating rinks. Harding said many of the crashes occurred on the major north-south thoroughfare of Interstate 5.

In a separate post on Twitter, Harding said that Whatcom County, home to Bellingham, had been “inundated with collisions, spin outs, and trees over the roadway due to freezing rain.”

Air travel also remained difficult on Saturday. Nearly 200 flights had been canceled at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as of 1 p.m., according to online tracker FlightAware.

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Travel woes ongoing in Washington state amid winter storm