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Sea-Tac, airlines, area hotels prepare for winter storm

Hotels, airlines, Sea-Tac Airport are preparing for winter storm around the Puget Sound area.

By Carol Pucci

Seattle Times travel writer

Sea-Tac Airport crews are working 12-hour shifts.

Alaska Airlines has reserved rooms near the airport for employees.

Some downtown hotels are offering special rates — all in anticipation of snow that could snarl travel around the Puget Sound area.

“We’re getting quite a few people calling and booking rooms in anticipation of snow,” said a desk clerk at the DoubleTree Hotel at Sea-Tac, where all 850 rooms were booked by early Tuesday with travelers and airline personnel.

Taking advantage of what’s normally a slow period, many downtown Seattle hotels are offering snow specials.

Kimpton Hotels, which owns the Hotel Vintage Park, Hotel Monaco and Alexis Hotel, is offering rooms at 32 percent (as in 32 degrees) off its best available rates, plus free parking and restaurant discounts Tuesday through the weekend.

The Mayflower Park Hotel is offering rooms starting at $99 Tuesday and Wednesday and perhaps longer, depending on the weather, said reservations manager Craig Packer. Also offering $99 specials Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the Maxwell Hotel, Hotel Five, University Inn and Watertown Hotel.

The Paramount Seattle hotel is running a $109 special Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Manager Matt Murphy said the 146-room hotel was 70 percent booked by Tuesday afternoon, and it planned to put up staff in some of the rooms.

Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, which handle about 50 percent of the passenger traffic in and out of Sea-Tac, have reserved hotel rooms near the airport for employees, and has plenty of de-icing fluid on hand to weather a storm, said spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

The airlines had to cancel or delay flights during a storm in 2010, citing treacherous road conditions that prevented some employees from getting to work. In 2008, they shut down completely, the result of weather-related problems, including a shortage of de-icing fluid.

Alaska said it would waive change fees for passengers with tickets for flights departing Seattle or Portland Tuesday through Thursday, providing travel is rescheduled by Sunday. Passengers can also request a refund. The airline said it would accept no unaccompanied minors through Thursday. Virgin America is offering to rebook passengers on flights scheduled to depart Tuesday and Wednesday, with no change fees or difference in fares, provided they travel no later than Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Sea-Tac Airport

Sea-Tac Airport crews have been on snow alert for several days, preparing to keep two of the airport’s three runways open at all times, said spokesman Perry Cooper.

Temperature gauges in the runways tell crews when to begin de-icing, and crews perform skid-testing at three different points on each runway.

The airport has emergency supplies, blankets and food available in case passengers get stranded and have to spend the night, Cooper said. Restaurants and shops have been ordering extra food and drinks in anticipation of the weather disrupting deliveries.

If you’re flying

Some things to know if you are planning to fly this week:

• Check your airline’s website or call to check the status of your flight before going to the airport. Flight cancellation and delay info is also available at www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac.

• If your flight is canceled, you’ll be offered a refund or a chance to reschedule, but don’t expect the airline to pay for a hotel room or meals. When it comes to delays or cancellations caused by mechanical problems, crew shortages, etc., airlines will often provide compensation, but not for weather-related problems.

• Plan to leave for the airport in plenty of time to arrive two hours before your flight. The busiest time for departures out of Sea-Tac is between 6 and 8:30 a.m.

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @carolpucci.


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Severe Weather and Possible Snow?

Weather Alerts for Tacoma and Greater Puget Sound Region

There is snow in the forecast for later in the day on Tuesday, and it could begin falling
during the afternoon commute.

That situation could create very different morning and afternoon travel conditions for bus riders. 

Transit users are advised to plan ahead for afternoon and evening trips that could be disrupted,
delayed, reduced, or on snow routing.

Even though weather in the morning may be clear, leave from a bus stop or park-and-ride that also
has service when buses are on snow routes in case travel conditions deteriorate by the afternoon commute. 

Give yourself extra time to reach your evening destination. Busescould be crowded in the early part 
of the afternoon commute if everyone tries to get home before snowfall is the heaviest.
 

Metro is urging bus riders to prepare by visiting Metro Online and knowing the snow routing for the
buses they will ride tomorrow.
 

Then, before traveling, riders should check for the most current status of Metro service. Updates to
online information begin as early as 4 a.m. and continue as needed until the storm is over.
 

A Tuesday snowfall could create challenges for all vehicles, especially if the snow begins to fall during
the afternoon commute. Bus operations could change rapidly. 

Here are some tips for bus travel if it does snow: 
 

• Know the snow routing for your bus route. Check
timetables for snow route maps for each route. Not
  every bus route has snow routing, but most do;
 
 

• When buses are on snow routing, some streets and bus stops may be missed and there are often
  delays due to travel conditions. There is new snow routing in many areas that is different from past
  years, so be sure to check the snow routes for the routes you use most often or are likely to use
  during snow;
 
  

• Metro uses an online color-coded map to keep riders advised of the status of its bus service.  All bus 
  routes are assigned into one or more of seven King County geographic areas. When there is snow or
  ice on the roads, the color-coded service status of each area is displayed map. Green indicates buses
  are operating on normal routes; yellow that some – but not all – routes in the area are on snow routes, and
  red tells you that all bus routes in the entire geographic area are on snow routing;
 
 

• People without online access can call the Customer Information Office at (206) 553-3000. General
  information about service is also sent via the kcmetrobus Twitter account;
 
 

• Be patient. Buses are not always on schedule in snowy or icy conditions. And, increased ridership
  during bad weather can result in crowded buses and a longer-than-usual wait on the phone for the
  Customer Information Office; 
 
 

• Dress warmly, wear appropriate footwear for the weather…and expect delays; 
 
 

• Use bus stops on flat portions of main arterials or at major transfer points such as park-and-ride lots,
  transit centers, or shopping centers.

Thanks for riding and for using Metro’s services.

Travel safely.

 


Special Weather Statement for Greater Puget Sound Region

Issued by The National Weather Service
Seattle/Tacoma, WA
3:30 pm PST, Sat., Dec. 25, 2010

WINTER WEATHER IS HEADING TO WESTERN WASHINGTON BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS DAY…

SEVERAL WINTER WEATHER EVENTS ARE COMING NEXT WEEK… INCLUDING THE POSSIBILITY OF LOWLAND SNOW BEGINNING ABOUT WEDNESDAY.

FIRST UP IS SNOW IN THE MOUNTAINS SUNDAY NIGHT AND MONDAY MORNING. THE SNOW LEVEL WILL FALL TO AS LOW AS 1000 FEET… SO ALL MOUNTAIN PASSES WILL SEE SNOW. THE AMOUNTS LOOK LIKE THEY WILL BE IN THE ADVISORY RANGE… PERHAPS 6 TO 10 INCHES OVERNIGHT.

THE SECOND WINTER WEATHER EVENT IS A MUCH HEAVIER MOUNTAIN SNOWFALL PREDICTED FOR MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY. STRONG WESTERLY FLOW ALOFT AND A MOIST AIR MASS WILL CREATE A CLASSIC HEAVY SNOW PRODUCING PATTERN FOR THE MOUNTAINS. ONE TO THREE FEET OF NEW SNOW IS POSSIBLE MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY.

FINALLY… AND POSSIBLY OF MOST INTEREST… THERE IS A CHANCE OF LOWLAND SNOW BEGINNING ABOUT WEDNESDAY AND LASTING INTO THURSDAY NIGHT. A DEEP UPPER TROUGH WILL SETTLE OVER WESTERN WASHINGTON. PRECIPITATION WILL BE SHOWERY AND WILL DIMINISH BY THURSDAY. HOWEVER IT IS LIKELY THAT AT LEAST SOME OF THE PRECIPITATION WILL BE IN THE FORM OF SNOW. WITH HIGH TEMPERATURES IN THE 30S AND LOWS IN THE 20S… SOME OF THE SNOW WILL STICK.

THIS SNOWFALL IS STILL FOUR DAYS AWAY AND THE FORECAST COULD CHANGE. THE PRECIPITATION CURRENTLY LOOKS MORE SHOWERY IN THE MODELS RATHER THAN A WIDESPREAD SYNOPTIC SNOW EVENT. SHOWERS WOULD IMPLY A MORE HIT OR MISS SNOW EVENT. STILL… LOWLAND SNOW IS USUALLY A BIG EVENT AROUND WESTERN WASHINGTON… SO STAY INFORMED.

State lawmakers skip drama, cut budget by millions

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The state Legislature raced through millions of dollars in budget cuts during a special session Saturday aimed at reducing the $1.1 billion shortfall in the current state budget.

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By Andrew Garber

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

Gov. Chris Gregoire

Gov. Chris Gregoire


OLYMPIA — There were no throngs of protesters chanting on the Capitol steps Saturday. And no political meltdowns in the House or Senate as the Legislature raced through millions of dollars in budget cuts during a one-day special session.

The angry clashes often seen when state programs get axed were replaced with resignation that resistance was futile.

“It’s a done deal,” Nick Federici, a lobbyist with Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, said while waiting outside the House chamber. “We can scream bloody murder, and it really isn’t going to change the outcome.”

Lawmakers finished their work with unusual speed. They started at 9 a.m. and by midafternoon had passed all the legislation on the table aimed at reducing a $1.1 billion shortfall in the current budget, which runs through June.

Actions taken by the Legislature and governor are expected to trim the shortfall by about $700 million.

The cuts will hit higher education, K-12 schools, social services, state prisons and other programs.

The debates on the budget bills Saturday were short, and legislation making the biggest cuts passed with large bipartisan majorities. The House voted 86 to 6, and the Senate 30 to 9, on the key budget measure, House Bill 3225.

“I’m very proud of what the Legislature was able to do today and how they did it. I think it’s historic, the bipartisan way in which they stood up to the most challenging time in 80 years,” Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire said shortly after the Legislature adjourned. “I’m hoping they have built up a momentum that candidly shows the rest of the country how to get it done.”

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, didn’t sound as confident when interviewed after the last Senate vote.

“This is an aberration,” he said of how smoothly lawmakers completed their work Saturday. “These were decisions that had to be made because of the shortness of time, and when we get into regular session (in January) I would not see this amicable love ship forever.”

Bipartisan opposition

Not everyone was willing to vote for the cuts. There was opposition in both parties.

Departing Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, voted against the reductions, arguing lawmakers should look to eliminate certain tax loopholes and giveaways to raise more money. Oemig lost to a Republican in the November election.

“Today, what this bill does, it’s going to cut welfare for kids, for families,” he said during the debate. “It’s going to cut school funding. And it’s not asking anyone else to sacrifice. That’s just not right.”

Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, also was a no vote, saying in a statement the Legislature did not go far enough. “The budget reductions taken will, at best, only marginally begin to help the state’s fiscal situation. … This is a very poor start, considering the even larger budget deficits the state will be facing in January.”

Most lawmakers said the cuts are just the beginning, noting tax collections continue to fall below expectations due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

State officials are projecting at least a $4.6 billion budget gap in the next two-year budget, which is expected to result in even steeper cuts when the Legislature meets again next month.

“This is probably the easiest of all the decisions we’re going to have to make as we move into January,” said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Zarelli voted for the cuts.

That’s what has health-care, social-service and education advocates worried.

“There’s a real fear out there that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for a coalition of health-care and social-service advocates.

“The Legislature needs to take a balanced approach to this unprecedented situation,” he said. “What I’m suggesting is that they also take a look at reforming tax exemptions and closing some of these worst tax exemptions.”

Tax hikes not on table

Tax increases aren’t being considered. An initiative passed by voters last month requires a two-thirds vote of lawmakers or a vote of the public to raise taxes.

The complex agreement lawmakers approved Saturday was hammered out by Gregoire and the Democratic and Republican leadership earlier in the week.

The deal includes $208 million in federal education aid granted by Congress this year, plus a mix of cuts and raiding of accounts outside the general fund. Local school districts had hoped to use the federal money to help offset additional cuts expected in the next two-year budget.

Gregoire also is expected to make additional, across-the-board cuts in the current budget that don’t require legislative approval.

Lawmakers cut $51 million from universities and colleges, including $11 million from the University of Washington, $7 million from Washington State University and $2 million from Western Washington University.

The reductions come on top of earlier cuts made during the last budget approved by the Legislature.

“For the students probably in the winter quarter and spring quarter, we’ll cut back on class offerings more so than we have already,” said Randy Hodgins, UW’s vice president of external affairs. “We will make sections in large lecture classes bigger than they already are. They will not have as much access to TAs (teaching assistants), which is something they’re already complaining about. Advising, police services, equipment purchases … it’s more diminishment.”

The cuts also include $50 million from K-12 education, $48 million from the Department of Corrections and millions more from social-service programs.

Disability Lifeline, a temporary safety net for the disabled poor, is expected to reduce the cash grant for each recipient in the program from $339 a month to $258. And the state expects to save money on the Basic Health Plan, which provides subsidized insurance for the working poor, by not filling slots as people leave the program.

The state Department of Revenue also is expected to bring in more than $40 million in additional revenue with various efforts, including a tax-amnesty program that would waive interest and penalties from Feb. 1 through May 31 of next year for companies that agree to pay their back taxes.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or agarber@seattletimes.com


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State budget cuts

State budget cuts approved by the Legislature on Saturday include:$50 million from public schools, including the elimination of funding to keep class sizes smaller in K-4 classrooms.

$51 million from higher education, including $11.4 million from the University of Washington, $7.5 million from Washington State University, $2 million from Western Washington University and $26.4 million from community and technical colleges.

$12.3 million from Disability Lifeline, a program that provides cash payments to the disabled poor. Monthly payments will drop from $339 to $258.

$27.7 million by reducing enrollment in the Basic Health Plan, a subsidized insurance program for the working poor. The state won’t fill slots as they come open.

$48.4 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of the McNeil Island Corrections Center.

Reducing payments to health-care centers that receive federal money.

Reducing emergency payments to families in need but not on welfare. One-time payments will drop from $1,250 to $1,000.

Eliminating nonemergency adult dental care for the poor.

$13.8 million by extending last year’s furloughs for state employees to include all Department of Social and Health Services employees, and requiring them to take two additional furlough days.

$17 million from natural-resources programs, including $5.8 million from the Department of Ecology.

A 6.2 percent across-the-board reduction in the governor’s office, the budget office, the Legislature, the judiciary and the offices of separately elected statewide officials.

Source: Washington State Senate Democrats,

Washington State Legislature

What’s next

The week, Gov. Chris Gregoire will roll out her proposals to cut at least $4.6 billion from the next two-year budget, which runs through June 2013. She’s also expected to propose how to solve what remains of the shortfall in the current budget.

On Jan. 10, the Legislature will convene for a scheduled 105-day session to finish plugging the hole in the current budget and write a new two-year budget.

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Gregoire calls special legislative session to cut budget

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Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

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By Andrew Garber

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

The governor made the announcement Monday afternoon after meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate. No date has been set yet.

She gave legislative leaders until Thursday afternoon to give her a date they can agree on.

“I made it clear we’re going into special session,” Gregoire said. “I just want to know from them what day they want to come in. I’d like them to come in, get the job done and go home.”

Gregoire said she suggested this Friday “and they were a little bit reticent. I want to defer to them,” she said.

What happens if they can’t agree on a day?

“I’ll give them a day,” Gregoire said.

House and Senate lawmakers will be in Olympia this week for committee meetings to get up to speed on issues they expect to face during their regular session, which starts in January.

Democratic and Republican leaders have given Gregoire lists of possible budget cuts to help balance the current spending plan. Gregoire has developed her own list, as well.

The governor says a special session is warranted because last month’s revenue forecast showed tax collections falling below projections.

Overall, the state expects to bring in around $900 million less in revenue this fiscal year, which runs through next June. Costs of state programs — primarily health care for the poor — also have risen, bringing the shortfall for this fiscal year to $1.1 billion.

In addition to the current budget gap, the projected shortfall for the next two-year budget is around $5.7 billion. Gregoire said she doesn’t expect to solve the entire budget problem for the current fiscal year in a special session, but wants to tackle a big chunk of the shortfall.

“What I’m asking them to come in and do, is take some early action on a number of issues so we can advance the ball dramatically,” she said.

Gregoire said lawmakers need to brief their caucuses before agreeing to a date.

Republicans said they’re ready to go anytime.

“We know there’s a problem and that we have to be part of the solution,” said House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “We’re going to team up, and we’re going to be part of the solution.”

Andrew Garber: agarber@seattletimes.com or 360-236-8268

 

 

Three Clemmons associates found guilty

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A Pierce County jury convicted three associates of Lakewood police shooter Maurice Clemmons for crimes that happened while he was on the run last year, but acquitted Clemmons’ brother, Rickey Hinton.

 

By Jonathan Martin

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Pierce County jury convicted three associates of Lakewood police shooter Maurice Clemmons for crimes that happened while he was on the run last year, but acquitted Clemmons’ brother, Rickey Hinton.

After three days of deliberations, the jury had a nuanced view of the charges, acquitting one defendant, Doug Davis, of rendering criminal assistance to Clemmons, but convicting him of handling a gun stolen from one of the slain officers.

Two other defendants, Clemmons’ aunt, Letrecia Nelson, 53, and his cousin, Eddie Davis, 21, were convicted of all charges.

Because the jury found special circumstances, Pierce County prosecutors may seek the maximum sentences against Nelson and the Davises.

Although Doug Davis was acquitted of one charge, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said his office will seek the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for handling the gun Clemmons stole from an officer.

Eddie Davis faces up to 20 years in prison and Nelson faces up to 15 years. Both Davises are convicted felons.

Hinton sat stone faced as he was acquitted and arrangements were made to let him walk free after a year in jail.

Lakewood police Chief Bret Farrar shook his head.

“The important thing is five of the seven people who helped Maurice Clemmons have been held accountable,” Lindquist said.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

 

 




Seattle police now tweeting stolen car alerts

Posted by John de Leon

From Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green:

At 2:28 p.m. Wednesday, Seattle police 911 dispatch supervisor Gary Raymond sent his first stolen-vehicle tweet:

A brown, 1984, four-door Toyota Camry with Washington license plate number 455 XGP had been reported stolen from the Ballard area around 8 a.m.

“We have 36 (Twitter) followers already. How about that?” Raymond said from his desk in the Seattle Police Department‘s 911 communications center, located on the second floor of the West Precinct on Virginia Street.

Seattle police already have 7,000 Twitter followers for its regular department account — twitter.com/seattlepd — but on Wednesday, the department launched a new account: twitter.com/getyourcarback

“It’s a force multiplier,” with citizens helping police spot stolen vehicles and hopefully, get them back to their owners more quickly, said Lt. Mike Edwards of the department’s investigations procedures unit.

Criminals are already using social networking, even posting updates on Twitter and Facebook about the houses they’ve broken into or the items they’ve stolen, Edwards said.

“It’s just one more thing they’re using, so we want to use it too,” he said during a news briefing to announce the launch of the department’s new Twitter campaign.

Police departments in Albuquerque, N.M., and San Jose, Calif., have already been issuing Twitter alerts about stolen cars and have seen some marked success, Edwards said.

Seattle has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of stolen cars in recent years. But some 3,000 vehicles are still stolen every year, and police recover about 80 percent of them, he said.

It’s Edwards’ hope that people who see the tweets will call 911 when they spot a stolen vehicle. The department hopes the new tool will further reduce car thefts in the city between 10 and 20 percent, he said.

Example of a @getyourcarback tweet

 

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