South Sound residents traveling for the holiday will need to plan ahead to arrive on time for their Thanksgiving gatherings.
Travelers won’t get much help from Mother Nature this long weekend. Beginning Wednesday, the first of two fronts will cross Western Washington, bringing cold air and snow in the passes.
Snow levels will fall to about 2,500 feet late Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service office. That means up to 3 inches of snow in the mountain passes and another 6 inches through Friday — just in time for the second front.
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Forecasts suggest total snowfall for the holiday weekend will range from 10 to 15 inches in the passes.
The weather also will affect those traveling to Pullman for the Apple Cup Friday afternoon between the rival Washington State University Cougars and the University of Washington Huskies.
The fronts will bring breezy to windy conditions and rain in the lowlands. The highest winds — 20-35 mph and gusts to 50 mph — will be along the coast, in the San Juans, and in Whatcom and Skagit counties. The rest of Western Washington can expect winds of 15-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph.
Nearly 800,000 air travelers are expected to go through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during Thanksgiving week. Sea-Tac has planned for additional staff and improved seating and restrooms to accommodate the crowds.
The busiest days for the November holiday season will be Wednesday, Sunday and next Monday. The fewest travelers fly on Thanksgiving Day.
New seating with built-in power and USB outlets — including work stations near gate areas — has been added, lighting has been upgraded and extra volunteers are on hand at Sea-Tac.
Aviators can find information about state-operated airports by visiting bit.ly/2ga6uZK or calling 800-552-0666.
The state Department of Transportation will offer two additional Amtrak Cascades train trips between Seattle and Portland. Those trains will depart from Seattle at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Sunday and arrive in Portland at 4:45 p.m. They will leave Portland at 5:45 p.m. both days and arrive in Seattle at 10 p.m.
Regular one-way adult fares between Seattle and Portland start at $26. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations.
The Oregon Department of Transportation will add more buses between Portland and Eugene to supplement train travel, and Oregon’s trains will run on their weekend schedule Wednesday through Sunday. For information, see the Amtrak Cascades website, amtrakcascades.com.
Travelers can purchase tickets online or by calling 800-872-7245 (800-USA-RAIL).
Go online to the Amtrak Rider’s Guide for details about baggage, pets and bicycle reservations.
AAA forecasts it to be the busiest Thanksgiving period on U.S roads and skies since 2007, with 48.7 million Americans traveling. That’s a 1.9 percent increase over last year.
For those who can be flexible about travel times, the state DOT has charted peak travel times through the holiday weekend.
The worst times to drive from Olympia to Tacoma are 6 a.m. to noon and 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day; and late morning to early evening Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The most congested times heading east over Interstate 90 will be 1-5 p.m. Wednesday, and returning west 1-3 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. If you’re going over a mountain pass, carry chains and winter driving essentials.
Apple Cup fans should plan ahead for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra travel time to ensure they arrive before the 12:30 p.m. kickoff.
WSDOT recommends setting car radios for 530-AM and 1610-AM for highway alerts.
Those traveling by ferry should expect heavy holiday use and consider purchasing tickets online to save time. Reservations are especially recommended on the San Juan and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes.
The longest lines are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening and eastbound Friday morning.
Some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday, so check the Washington State Ferries website at wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ or call 888-808-7977 for details.