Traffic moves slowly along I-5 through Everett on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)

Traffic moves slowly along I-5 through Everett on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)

Holiday travel: Icy Sea-Tac airport tops ‘Misery Map’

The predicted third-busiest holiday travel season since 2000 faces a wintry mix of traffic jams and flight issues.

  • By Ben Watanabe and Andrea Brown
  • Wednesday, December 21, 2022 10:58am
  • NewsNorthwest

If the holidays involve hitting the road, idling in ferry lanes or lingering in airports, then plan to leave early and be prepared for the worst.

Weather can havoc even the best laid plans.

Traffic annually cranks up heading into Christmas and around New Year’s Day. It means congested highways, long vehicle queues for cars and busy airport terminals, even without the cold and snow.

Sea-Tac topped FlightAware’s “Misery Map” on Tuesday morning, with 191 cancellations and 49 delays.

Washington State Ferries advised passengers to check mobile app and online alerts before traveling due to potential sailing delays.

INRIX, a transportation data company based in Kirkland, estimates over 112 million people across the country are traveling more than 50 miles from home this season. That would make it the third-busiest travel holiday season since 2000, when AAA started tracking the data.

The vast majority of those travelers, around 102 million, will be driving, according to INRIX projections.

On the roads, the major delays are likely on I-5 as well as across mountain passes on I-90 and U.S. 2, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The WSDOT app and website,, has real-time updates.

On Tuesday, at Stevens Pass on U.S. 2 and Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, chains were required on all vehicles except those with all-wheel drive. Oversize vehicles were prohibited on Stevens Pass.

All winter drivers, and especially those headed across the mountains, should be prepared for bad weather, state transportation staff said. That means having an emergency kit with food, water and warm clothes, as well as chains or studded tires in case they’re required on the passes.

“It takes just one reckless person driving too fast, under the influence or not following chain requirements to close a mountain pass for all of us,” WSDOT winter program manager Jim Andersen wrote in a press release. “Our crews take great pride in their work and do everything in their power to keep roads open — but we need drivers and truckers to do their part and slow down.”

U.S. 2 between Skykomish and Stevens Pass is expected to see higher-than-average eastbound traffic starting Dec. 22 (Thursday morning). Eastbound traffic could spike Friday morning and afternoon and continue to be above normal through Christmas Day and Monday, Dec. 26.

Westbound traffic on the highway is projected to rise similarly, with a spike Friday afternoon and another from morning to evening Monday.

The worst congestion in the Seattle area is expected to be through Tacoma between 6 and 8 p.m. Dec. 28 on I-5 south, according to INRIX.

The day after Christmas is a busy time for shoppers returning unwanted gifts and scooping up deals on holiday items for next year.

Ferry travelers can skirt what are expected to be long waits by walking on instead of driving. The Washington State Ferries system is expecting busy travel the Friday and Saturday before Christmas and New Year’s Day in both directions.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

SeaTac man sentenced to life in 2021 Des Moines triple murder

Jury convicted Joshua Puloka in May of shootings outside of sports bar

Tacoma woman, 18, faces vehicular assault charge after Kent crash

Reportedly had been drinking; female passenger, 18, in her vehicle suffers injuries

Cristopher Ruvalcaba (Court documents.)
Two Auburn men sentenced in murder of Kent man at Southcenter Mall

Chris Wesolowicz was shot in a carjacking incident on Nov. 18, 2022.

Asylum seekers again ask for former Kent Econo Lodge to be reopened

Several testify at Kent City Council meeting; but King County has no plans to open hotel

Volunteers enjoy the sunshine at Renton’s 2024 Juneteenth Celebration. The weather will be sunny this weekend as summer officially starts. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing
Summer kicks off with 80-degree weekend weather

Puget Sound region weather forecast for June 21-23.

Most Kent crime numbers declining so far in 2024 compared to 2023

Homicides, robberies, vehicle thefts, residential burglaries fewer in first 5 months

Kent Police chief says they have ‘strong leads’ in student’s fatal shooting

Rafael Padilla ‘cautiously optimistic’ detectives will solve who shot Kent-Meridian High student

Latter-day Saints make large food donation to Kent, Renton groups

Semi delivers shipment for Kent Food Bank, John Volken Academy and two local churches

Police arrest Kentridge High student who reportedly had gun on campus | Update

17-year-old boy under investigation for unlawful possession of a firearm and fourth-degree assault

Juneteenth flag goes up at Kent City Hall

Mayor Dana Ralph and Gwen Allen-Carston raise the flag for June 19

State Patrol honors 7 Kent Police Department members in trooper shooting

Officers helped save the life of Trooper Seaburg in February incident; detectives built case

Police arrest Kent boy, 16, for vehicular assault after 3-car collision

Teen and three others injured, two critically; boy reportedly stole vehicle prior to June 17 crash on East Hill