An Alaska Airlines flight lands at the Juneau International Airport. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for much many parts of the country from Thursday through Saturday. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

An Alaska Airlines flight lands at the Juneau International Airport. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for much many parts of the country from Thursday through Saturday. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Worsening weather means travel plans could be up in the air

Travel experts advise checking holiday plans and checking them twice.

A busy holiday travel season is set to coincide with bitter cold and disruptive storms in the Seattle area, which could impact travel for folks heading to the Lower 48 this weekend.

Juneau International Airport manager Patty Wahto said that while she expects the volume of travel to be on par with most other holiday seasons, there is an expected weather system moving in for Thursday that travelers should stay mindful of.

“If you’re planning on parking at the airport, be sure to come early to make sure that there’s room because a lot of people are traveling,” Wahto said. “We’ll be providing all of the regular snow removal and planes will be flying provided the weather cooperates. We’re all on board and we have crews on 24/7. Just plan early and be patient if there are delays.”

As of Tuesday, Alaska Airlines issued an update for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after 195 flight cancellations were made, many of those flights being with Alaska Airlines.

“Weather’s a challenge and we try to prepare for it as best we can because if you don’t then you have greater challenges, so we had pre-canceled some flights out of Seattle today in anticipation of snowstorms,” said managing director of the Alaska market for Alaska Airlines Scott Habberstad.

Habberstad further said people traveling with Alaska Airlines through the week should consider downloading the Alaska Airlines app to stay fully up to date with any changes made to flights because that’s where people can expect the quickest results.

Despite those cancellations, Perry Cooper, media relations manager for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said currently the runways are clear and flights have resumed on schedule.

“From an operational standpoint right now everything is looking clear in terms of runways, taxiways and all the ramp areas,” Cooper said. “We are looking at some freezing temperatures I think come tomorrow through Thursday, so I think from our standpoint our biggest worry now may be whether or not we have an ice storm which would be problematic, too, but at this point we’re just keeping an eye on the forecast like everybody else.”

Kayla Mazurkiewicz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle, confirmed that there is the potential for freezing rain with snow mixed in through Thursday and Friday, but then warmer temperatures expected through the holiday weekend, which should help ease tensions of canceled or delayed flights to or from Washington.

“We’re looking at the weekend as warming up, so it all depends on what the thresholds are but if we have any more systems moving through it’s most likely to be rain through the holiday weekend,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It depends if it’s heavier rain, then I think we could see some delays, but a warm up is definitely likely through Christmas.”

Aside from flying through Seattle, depending on where your destination is, Alaska travel expert Scott McMurren with Alaska Travelgram said that flying through Anchorage might be an option, as well. Additionally, McMurren said he predicts there will be more weather interruptions throughout the holiday week, if not in Seattle, then in other destinations as Arctic air starts traveling down into the Lower 48, it’s going to impact flights systemwide.

“Alaska and other airlines do have nonstop flights out of Anchorage down to LA, over to Chicago, Denver and Portland, etc. but they’re not necessarily cheaper options, they’re just additional routes if Seattle isn’t available,” McMurren said. “SeaTac is going to be rough, but to their credit, the airlines are really pushing out messaging and telling people to double check the status of your flight, get to the airport early, and I would add if you’ve got a tight connection, like less than two hours, you might just check to see if you can modify that to accommodate a longer connection because flights are late.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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