State hopes for a rainy Christmas

SEATTLE — A week of heavy snow, jammed airports, closed roads and cabin fever had many Washington residents wishing for that traditional Northwest holiday: a rain-soaked Christmas.

For much of Western Washington at least, rain and the possibility of ice-free streets was on the way, the National Weather Service promised today, but not before one more snowfall due Christmas morning.

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, more than two dozen people were treated for eye irritation this morning after deicing fumes entered the cabin of a Boeing 737-800 waiting at an airport gate, Sea-Tac spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt said.

The plane, Alaska Airlines flight 528 to Burbank, Calif., with 143 passengers and five crew members on board, was being deiced for departure, she said. “Some deicing fumes made their way into the plane and it’s a pretty good eye irritant.”

Airline spokeswoman Caroline Boren said 26 people were treated or checked for eye irritation, and that seven people, all crew members or airline employees, were being taken to hospitals for further possible treatment. She said all the passengers were being put aboard another plane scheduled to leave by midmorning.

Officials were investigating how the fumes got into the plane, Boren said.

The last of an estimated 4,000 passengers who had been stranded by weekend storms at the airport were gone by Tuesday. More snow was falling at the airport south of Seattle, but Betancourt said the only delays or cancellations were because of problems at other airports.

Like many in the state, she was tired of the snow.

“I’ve lived here 16 years and this is the first time I’ve thought, ‘I wish it would rain,”’ she said.

The weather service said she could get her wish, at least briefly. It said 2 more inches of snow were expected in the Seattle area today before the showers changed to rain later in the day. More snow was possible overnight and on Christmas before warming temperatures bring more rain into the weekend.

For the Cascade Range and the eastern half of the state, the winter weather will be unrelenting. The weather service posted a winter storm warning for the Cascades and Olympics, most of Eastern Washington and parts of northwest Washington, with Spokane getting another 5 to 9 inches of snow atop the heavy layer that’s covered the city for weeks.

Up to 18 inches of snow will fall in parts of the Cascades. Elsewhere in the state, the weather service forecast up to 4 inches of snow in Bellingham by Christmas morning, 4 to 7 inches in Pullman in the southeastern corner of the state, and 4 to 8 inches around Moses Lake and 3 to 6 inches at Wenatchee in central Washington.

Seattle awoke to light snow falling on mostly commuter-free streets, as many motorists apparently opted to stay home the day before Christmas.

In Spokane, tempers were starting to fray, with police reporting that a 53-year-old man was arrested for investigation of felony harassment after he allegedly threatened snow plow drivers.

Officers said the man was armed with a gun Tuesday when he came out of his house and yelled at a driver not to block his house with a snow berm. A few minutes later, an anonymous call was made to the city’s Street Department saying that any plow driver that came down that street would be shot. Police said the call was traced to the man’s house.

Associated Press Doug Esser in Seattle contributed to this report.

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