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Unique snowy weather setup leads to lengthy delays at Sea-Tac Airport

According to FlightAware, there have been over 360 flights delayed in or out of Sea-Tac Airport with delays stretching into Friday afternoon reaching over 2.5 hours. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. -- The snowy weather wasn't just unusual from a calendar standpoint, it was unusual from a Sea-Tac operations standpoint as well.

According to FlightAware, there have been over 360 flights delayed in or out of Sea-Tac Airport with delays stretching into Friday afternoon reaching over 2.5 hours. There were long lines and frayed nerves at the airport

MORE | Check Your Sea-Tac Flight Status

The north wind blowing out of the Fraser River Valley made it down into the Puget Sound region. A north wind is common on warm, sunny summer days, but fairly rare in the winter.

That creates an issue -- particularly when we're in a low visibility situation... the departures are restricted from taking off, until the arrivals are safely on the ground," said Mike Ehl, Director of Operations at Sea-Tac Airport. "So our arrival rate is outpacing our departure rate at this time."

That leaves aircraft queued up on the ground, waiting for gates, and there's no place for departing airplanes at those gates to go because there isn't enough room to hold them out near the runways awaiting takeoff.

So we go into a gate hold where aircraft are required to stay at the gate until air traffic control has slot available for them to depart," Ehl said. "So it's a confluence of these issues," adding air space has to be available in the low visibility to get those planes out of Seattle.

Ehl said some additional, secondary delays were due to needing to deice aircraft and clear snow off aircraft that were parked outside overnight.

"It's not like a regular day in this kind of (wind flow)," says airport spokesperson Perry Cooper.

"That's right," Ehl agreed."Normally north flow conditions means good weather."

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