A strong weather system from the Pacific will bring the bulk of the snow on Thursday, followed by a weaker system on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy snow is expected to hit Snoqualmie and Stevens passes on Thanksgiving night, prompting a winter storm watch for drivers traveling during the holidays.
The National Weather Service issued the alert for Thursday morning through Friday. Those traveling across the mountain passes can expect snow on the roads and longer travel times, according to Jacob DeFlitch, a weather service meteorologist. A strong weather system from the Pacific will bring the bulk of the snow on Thursday, followed by a weaker system on Friday.
The storm will likely develop as heavy rain in the Puget Sound area, but as it heads into the higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains it could bring up to 16 inches of snow above 3,000 feet and six inches between 2,500 and 3,000 feet, according to weather-service data.
Stevens Pass is around 4,000 feet high, while Snoqualmie is at around 3,000 feet elevation, according to DeFlitch.
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“No matter what, give yourself some extra time on the road ways if you’re traveling along the passes,” DeFlitch said.
The Washington State Patrol will be conducting emphasis patrols on Thursday night as holiday travelers and drivers headed to Friday’s Apple Cup in Pullman take Interstate 90. Officers will be on high alert for anyone speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or using cellphones, and other violations that could cause an accident. The state Department of Transportation is providing commuters with the best times to travel this holiday week, based on historical data.
A WSDOT report for Snoqualmie Pass said road conditions are “bare and dry.” WSDOT images of Stevens Pass on Wednesday showed light snow and its condition report warned of “frost and ice in places.” The agency, on its Twitter account, has urged drivers to be cautious and to use chains if needed.
Winter driving tips from WSDOT include steps like checking the traction on tires and driving slowly. WSDOT also urges people not to use cruise control and to leave enough space between vehicles. Drivers should also make sure they are carrying the following items: a flashlight, water, snacks, ice scraper, jumper cables, warm clothes, flares, tire chains, and batteries, according to WSDOT.