The Labor Day weekend, with some sun and moderate temperatures, could be a welcome relief after smoky skies, drenching rains and power-outage-causing windstorms.
If you’re among the hundreds of thousands of Washington residents traveling this Labor Day weekend, the good news is that just about any direction you head, you may find at least some sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
Much of the Puget Sound area is forecast to have high temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s most of the weekend, with a chance of showers Sunday. Eastern Washington cities get sunshine and highs in the upper 70s to low 80s.
In some mountain areas, the Labor Day weekend is approaching with a fall chill that included the possibility of snow at upper elevations early Thursday, before conditions gradually warm.
Good weather even extends to the ocean. Most destinations on the Washington and Oregon coasts are expected to have highs in the low to mid-60s and some sunshine — although the chance of a shower cannot be ruled out.
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Across the state, most routes that had been closed by wildfires, such as the North Cascades Highway, have reopened, and air quality has been improving in travel destinations, including Lake Chelan.
The state’s mammoth blazes are far from out, however, and conditions could change with little notice. As of late Wednesday, just one state highway, Highway 21 in Ferry County, was closed because of wildfires.
Wherever you go this weekend, chances are you’ll have plenty of company — especially as you try to get home.
An estimated 705,000 Washington residents are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, and 80 percent will be in personal vehicles, Jennifer Cook, of AAA Washington, said.
That translates into tens of thousands of cars, trucks and RVs at time vying for space on some of the state’s most traveled routes, particularly at the start and end of the weekend that’s widely regarded as the time for summer’s last road trip.
Contributing to the traffic will be gas prices that GasBuddy.com says are some of the lowest on Labor Day in the past decade, and 99 cents a gallon less than a year ago. The website reports the average price for a gallon of gas in Washington at $2.91.
Barbara LaBoe of the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT), said some of the most congested routes will be Interstate 90 between Cle Elum and North Bend, Highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth, Interstate 5 between Olympia and Tacoma, and Interstate 5 near the Canadian border.
Many highway-construction projects are suspended on holiday weekends to allow maximum traffic flow, but LaBoe said that’s not practical for some because of equipment or barricades that need to the set up for the work.
A WSDOT news release offers details on the projects on which work will continue through the weekend, including lane restrictions on the Interstate 90 bridge across the Columbia River at Vantage, and nighttime closures along northbound Interstate 405 in the Bellevue area.
The WSDOT release also has information about getting updated information through WSDOT’s mobile app, social-media sites — such as Twitter and Facebook — as well as online tools for traffic information and ferry schedules.
WSDOT also posts updated traffic and road condition alerts.
Washington State Ferries estimates an average 94,000 passengers per day will ride this weekend, compared with 84,000 on other summer weekends, spokesman Ian Sterling said.
Overall, ferry ridership is up 3.5 percent this year, largely because of warm weather and an improved economy, he said.
Early this week, Washington State Parks reopened Pearrygin Lake State Park, in the fire-stricken Methow Valley, and Lake Chelan State Park, in another area affected by wildfires.
The North Cascades Highway reopened last weekend after more than a week of fire-caused closure, and most North Cascades National Park Service Complex campgrounds have reopened.