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How bad will the weather be for Thanksgiving travelers?

Stormy Thanksgiving in forecast, plus a winter weather outlook for Western Washington

The National Weather Service's Seattle office has issued a winter weather outlook for Western Washington.
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The National Weather Service's Seattle office has issued a winter weather outlook for Western Washington.

Two storms packed with rain and wind will move across Western Washington during Thanksgiving weekend and are sure to further snarl traffic on what is already the busiest travel day of the year.

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement Monday, warning that conditions might affect travel and activities for those celebrating the holiday.

The first front will hit late Wednesday, bringing 15- to 30-mph winds with gusts reaching 40 mph. The high in Bellingham is forecast to be 50.

Winds are expected to be strongest in the San Juan Islands and parts of Whatcom and Skagit counties, reaching 50-mph gusts.

Though rainfall during the week isn’t expected to be out of the ordinary; the precipitation combined with higher winds and increased holiday travel are reason for increased caution, the agency said.

Conditions might make the lowlands soggy and will bring snow to the mountain passes.

Snow levels will drop to 2,500 feet Thursday with up to three inches possibly falling on Thanksgiving, according to the Weather Service. Another six inches could fall Friday.

Forecasters said 10 to 15 inches of powder might fall in mountain passes throughout the holiday weekend.

A second front will come through the region Friday, bringing more rain but lesser winds.

Driving

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.

The state Department of Transportation warns that lengthy delays are expected on highways and has developed charts to show the most congested travel times on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Cle Elum; U.S. 2 between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth; Interstate 5 from Olympia to Tacoma; and I-5 near the U.S./Canadian border.

For instance, the most congested times heading east over I-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.

College football fans traveling to Friday’s Apple Cup game in Pullman 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.

The Transportation Department recommends setting car radios for 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway alerts.

Ferries

Those traveling by ferry should plan ahead for heavy holiday traffic and consider buying tickets online to save time.

The longest lines are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening, and eastbound Friday morning.

Reservations are recommended on the San Juan and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes.

Because some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday, check the Washington State Ferries website at bit.ly/1omdqP8 or call 888-808-7977 for details.

Trains

Two additional Amtrak Cascades train trips will run between Seattle and Portland on Wednesday and Sunday.

The additional trains will depart from Seattle both days at 12:30 p.m., arriving 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 the five days, Nov. 23-27.

For information, see the Amtrak Cascades website, amtrakcascades.com.

Customers are encouraged to book tickets early for best availability. Travelers can buy tickets online or by calling 800-872-7245 (800-USA-RAIL).

Details about baggage, pets and bicycle reservations are available online in the Amtrak Rider’s Guide at bit.ly/2gf2ZT6.

Flying

Nearly 800,000 air travelers are expected to go through Sea-Tac Airport during Thanksgiving week. The airport 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 (Nov. 23), Sunday (Nov. 27) and Monday (Nov. 28). The least traveled day of the week will be Thanksgiving Day.

Aviators can find information about state-operated airports online at bit.ly/2ga6uZK or by calling 800-552-0666.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

Jerre Redecker: 360-754-5422, @jredecker

Statistics for Thanksgiving Day at Sea-Tac Airport:

▪ Highest temperature was 59 degrees in 1983

▪ Lowest temperature was 21 degrees in 1985

▪ Most rainfall was 1.34 inches in 2009

▪ Most snowfall was 2.2 inches in 1964

▪ Normal high temperature is 49 degrees

▪ Normal low temperature is 38 degrees

▪ Normal precipitation is 0.23 inches

Weather data for the last 10 Thanksgivings at Seatac Airport:

2015: High of 49, low of 30, no rain

2014: High of 58, low of 53, 0.13 inches of rain

2013: High of 53, low of 38, no rain

2012: High of 48, low of 37, trace amounts of rain

2011: High of 45, low of 37, 0.26 inches of rain

2010: High of 39, low of 28, 0.01 inches of rain

2009: High of 50, low of 45, 1.34 inches of rain

2008: High of 48, low of 34, 0.01 inches of rain

2007: High of 46, low of 31, no rain

2006: High of 42, low of 38, 0.64 inches of rain

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