Nov. 23—People hitting the roads to visit friends and family for Thanksgiving in the Inland Northwest this week should expect dry weather and good driving conditions. The mostly dry conditions will come on the heels of Tuesday’s wintry mix of precipitation that caused Snoqualmie Pass to close and led to multiple slide-offs on area highways and Interstate 90.
“It should actually be a nice, pleasant few days, a little bit on the cooler side for this time of year,” said Joey Clevenger, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Spokane.
AAA predicted 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or farther from home for Thanksgiving, a 1.5% increase over 2021 and the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since 2000, when AAA started tracking the figures. Nearly 49 million people of the 55 million are expected to travel by car.
“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a news release. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”
To avoid traffic, the best time for travelers to drive to their Thanksgiving destination Wednesday is before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., according to AAA Washington’s Facebook page. On Thursday, the best time to drive is before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
High temperatures are expected to be in the mid- to upper 30s with lows in the mid-20s Wednesday through Friday at the Spokane International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.
Clevenger said high temperatures could lead to snow melt that freezes at night. He said untreated side roads could have icy patches. Pockets of fog could also develop.
Clevenger said precipitation is not expected Wednesday through Friday, except for possible snow late Friday that would produce little accumulation.
Rain and snow are possible Friday at Snoqualmie Pass, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Clevenger said drivers should check the state Department of Transportation for pass conditions.
A “more robust system” is expected Sunday, he said.
The weather service called for a 20% chance of snow Friday night to Saturday night, and a 30 to 40% chance Sunday through Tuesday in the area.
Clevenger said snow on Sunday could transition to a rain and snow mix Sunday afternoon in valleys and low-lying areas before returning to snow overnight into Monday.
“It’s going to be a wet winter day on Sunday,” he said.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory that ran Tuesday through early Wednesday morning for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene metro area.
Clevenger said 1 to 3 inches of snow fell across the Spokane area by 6 p.m. Tuesday. The National Weather Service office near Airway Heights measured 2.8 inches of snow at 6 p.m. Gifford in Stevens County recorded about 5 inches.
Clevenger said snow was supposed to taper off by early Wednesday morning for the Spokane area. The advisory was expected to end late Wednesday morning for Lookout Pass, where 3 to 5 inches of snow was expected Tuesday to Wednesday morning.
“After that, we get a little bit of a ridge built across the region, which will lead to pretty stable environments,” Clevenger said.
Snow, slush and ice forced Snoqualmie Pass to close Tuesday for eastbound drivers, and chains were required for all vehicles except those with all-wheel drive, according to the Department of Transportation. Multiple spin-outs and collisions were reported.
Numerous crashes, most slide-offs, were reported on state Route 291, U.S. Highway 395, U.S. Highway 2 and I-90 in Spokane and Lincoln counties, according to a Washington State Patrol tweet Tuesday night. Route 291 closed at Swenson Road in Suncrest because of bad road conditions and slide-offs. The state patrol asked drivers to slow down, be patient and increase their following distance from other vehicles.