A snowy weekend starts in Juneau as Seattle ice storm disrupts holiday travel

Snow blankets downtown on Friday, January 1, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. The first significant snow storm of 2022 started just as people were trying to leave town for the holiday weekend. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Winter weather will ramp up over Southeast Alaska this weekend, and stormy conditions across the Lower 48 have already disrupted holiday travel plans for many trying to fly out of Juneau. 

Alaska Airlines canceled around 550 flights on Friday. Alaska and Horizon flights in and out of Seattle were delayed and canceled throughout the day, and flights in and out of Portland were canceled entirely due to icy conditions and freezing rain.

Freezing rain in Seattle caused all three runways to close early Friday morning, which contributed to cancellations. A spokesperson for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport told the Seattle Times that it was an “unprecedented” scenario.

One runway reopened just before 7 a.m., but Alaska Airlines said they anticipate additional cancellations and delays.

Additional Friday flights out of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport were cancelled due to high wind.

In a written statement, Alaska Airlines said they will offer a flexible travel policy for passengers to rebook travel for those flying to, from or through Seattle or Portland. But they cautioned that flights are very full throughout the holiday weekend, and wait times for service will be high.

The airline is encouraging travelers to reassess their travel plans for the holiday. 

In Juneau, high winds and snowfall began Friday morning. Meteorologist Aaron Jacobs with the National Weather Service says heavy snow is expected to pick up throughout the holiday weekend.

“We’re going to probably see heavy snow start developing overnight tonight,” he said on Friday. “We’ll see a little lull tomorrow [Saturday] morning, with another band coming through to drop another significant amount of snow tomorrow afternoon.”

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning starting at 9 a.m. Friday through 9 p.m. Saturday evening, with accumulations of 10 – 15 inches of snow possible. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph are possible in downtown Juneau. 

Snowfall will be relatively light on Friday, but drivers should be aware of hazardous road conditions, low visibility and the potential for blowing snow in the evening.

This snowfall follows a cold snap across the Southeast. Temperatures are expected to rise steadily throughout the weekend and into next week. In Juneau, temperatures will stay below freezing until early next week, with the potential for snowfall through Sunday.

Jacobs says it may be wetter for those south of Juneau.

“Potentially for the folks down in the southern panhandle, you’re going to see some snow turned to more of a mixture of rain through tomorrow [Saturday] morning,” he said.

The impacts of local weather on flight plans for the rest of the weekend are still unknown, but freezing rain conditions are usually more hazardous for air travel than snow. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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