Cold and COVID-19 disrupt travel plans in Spokane and across Washington

<p><p>Travel plans for Spokane drivers and flyers on Wednesday continued to be disrupted as the state experienced arctic cold temperatures and a surge in new coronavirus cases. </p></p><p><p>The Spokane International Airport around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning reported 14 delays and two cancellations for flights leaving the airport, according to the airport’s online flight tracker. </p></p><p><p>For flights coming into Spokane, two were canceled and three delayed by about an hour. </p></p><p><p>Stacey Gansar, a Seattle resident, watched on Monday evening as her son boarded his delayed but rescheduled flight back to New Orleans.</p></p><p><p>Gansar checked on her own flight: it had been canceled. No other flights would get Gansar back to Seattle until Wednesday afternoon, she said.</p></p><p><p>In the meantime, Delta Air Lines set Gansar up in a Spokane hotel room, she said. </p></p><p><p>“But it’s still two days in a hotel when I was supposed to be home,” Gansar said. “Today I said, no matter what, I’m getting home.”</p></p><p><p>By 2 p.m. Wednesday, the situation had improved, with four delayed departing flights and two canceled, according to the airport’s flight tracker.</p></p><p><p>One arriving flight was delayed and two coming in from Seattle were canceled by Delta Air Lines, the flight tracker showed.</p></p><p><p>All of Spokane’s arriving or departing canceled flights as of Wednesday morning were Delta Air Lines routes, as the company said it was dealing with a surge in omicron cases that had led to staff shortages.</p></p><p><p><a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/dec/28/washington-state-reports-record-daily-cases/” target=”_blank”>Washington reported the highest numbers of coronavirus cases tallied</a> in a single day on Tuesday, with the possibility of an upward trend in Spokane County, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.</p></p><p><p>Alaska Airlines also accounted for eight of the 14 departing flight delays, according to the flight tracker.</p></p><p><p>Brenda Vogel, who was traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada for a concert, said she considered herself lucky her flight had not been canceled. </p></p><p><p>“It seems like our flight is on time for now,” she said. “But I’m checking a lot more often. We travel a lot, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”</p></p><p><p>Vogel said the spike in COVID-19 cases was causing her more concern than her flights.</p></p><p><p>“You just never know whether people will be masked or how many people are vaccinated, so that’s something I’m a little worried about,” Vogel said.</p></p><p><p>Mark Sahn, who flew into Spokane from Oakland, California, said he was nervous about his flight Wednesday morning because he had heard about airport delays. </p></p><p><p>“But I had no problems whatsoever,” said Sahn , who planned to drive to Coeur d’Alene to visit family.</p></p><p><p>Gansar said she considered a rental car to drive herself back to Seattle. But the roads were not much better Wednesday after temperatures dipped into the single-digits Tuesday night and snow flurries coated the mountain passes in ice.</p></p><p><p>Multiple spinouts closed westbound Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass at milepost 70 from 6:45 a.m. to 7:38 a.m. Wednesday, the <a href=”https://twitter.com/WSDOT_East/status/1476209271918366720″ target=”_blank”>Washington state Department of Transportation tweeted</a>.</p></p><p><p>The <a href=”https://twitter.com/SnoqualmiePass/status/1476209591557836801″ target=”_blank”>Snoqualmie Pass transportation account</a> tweeted that several semi-trucks driving too fast across the passes had jack-knifed and closed the westbound lanes on Tuesday. </p></p><p><p>A collision around 8 a.m. blocked the left lane of westbound I-90 in Spokane Valley at the Sullivan Road interchange, the <a href=”https://twitter.com/WSDOT_East/status/1476225738541989889″ target=”_blank”>department tweeted Wednesday morning</a>. </p></p><p><p>The department told drivers to expect difficult travel conditions, especially on the Cascade passes, from Wednesday night to Thursday night, with the heaviest snow expected to fall Thursday afternoon.</p></p><p><p>In Spokane, Wednesday’s temperatures were predicted to hover around 11 degrees, with a chance of snow after 10 p.m. Spokane was also expected to see 1 to 2 inches of snow Thursday through early Friday, the weather service said. </p></p><p><p>Affected routes included I-90 and Stevens Pass on U.S. Highway 2, and White Pass on U.S. Highway 12 , the department tweeted Tuesday afternoon.</p></p><p><p>Randall Leffler, who had traveled from Los Angeles to visit family in Montana for the holidays, said icy roads and frigid cold delayed his AmTrak train coming from Whitefish, Montana to Spokane by four hours on Wednesday.</p></p><p><p>He took the train because it cost less than flying from Spokane to the nearest airport in Montana, and “I really like the train, actually,” he said. </p></p><p><p>Leffler’s scheduled flight home was supposed to leave at 5:20 a.m. The train did not pull into Spokane until 6 a.m. With other flights experiencing hiccups, Leffler was only able to get a standby ticket to Denver, where he said he will hope for the best in getting back home to Los Angeles.</p></p><p><p>“I just have to stay here until I can get on a flight,” Leffler said. </p></p><p><p>Cold weather was likely to continue to the end of the week, Spokane’s National Weather Service office said in a Wednesday morning news release.</p></p><p><p>Spokane officially saw its lowest temperature of 2021 when the Spokane International Airport recorded 4 degrees just before 11 p.m. Tuesday, <a href=”https://twitter.com/NWSSpokane/status/1476104263671549953″ target=”_blank”>the National Weather Service tweeted early Wednesday</a>. This also marks the coldest it’s been since March 1, 2019, according to the weather service.</p></p><p><p>More snow-covered roads were expected on Thursday for the Palouse, central Idaho Panhandle and Camas Prairie, the weather service said. <a href=”https://forecast.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=otx&amp;wwa=winter%20storm%20warning” target=”_blank”>A winter storm warning was issued from 4 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday</a> for much of the Palouse. Heavy snow of around 4 to 6 inches was expected to pound the areas around Tekoa, Rosalia, Pullman, Uniontown, Moscow and Potlach, according to the weather service advisory.</p></p><p><p>Okanogan Valley would likely see continued wind chills of minus 10 to minus 20 Wednesday and Friday mornings, according to the weather service. </p></p>