ANACORTES — Washington State Ferries (WSF) is trying out a new schedule to allow it to adjust to snowstorms and other severe weather.

The ferry system activated its severe-weather schedule Wednesday for a few hours on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route — the first use of the new schedule on any route, spokesperson Ian Sterling said.

Anacortes received 12 inches of snow late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

“They had to dig the terminal out, and everyone was getting stuck,” Sterling said. “It was a mess up there.”

During the severe-weather schedule, the route will operate with three boats instead of four. The change will reduce the number of sailings and delay the start time of the first sailing, giving crews more time to arrive at the terminal and shovel snow, Sterling said.

WSF created the schedule following declining ridership in 2019, which was due to factors including snow, according to a news release. Ridership fell 1% on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route in 2019.

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“Last year illustrated once schools are closed, transit shut down and roads closed. It doesn’t make sense to continue ferry service when there is little demand for it,” Sterling said. “(The new schedule) allows us to have a little more predictability and stability, otherwise you have canceled sailings.”

Sterling said the decision to switch to a severe-weather route is based on school closures along the route and the weather forecast.

Washington State Ferries will notify riders when it switches to a severe-weather schedule through ferry alerts and social media, according to the news release.

Severe-weather schedules for all ferry routes are available on the WSF website.

Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at www.goskagit.com

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