Be Prepared – Inclement weather on the way

October 1, 2015 by

Fall has arrived and the sunny days are getting shorter as Winter is just around the corner. This is a great time to prepare by making sure that you have alternate commute plans in place such as which buses will operate during weather events, and if you have your snow kit in your vehicle if measurable snow falls.

The National Weather Service has predicted an El Nino winter lasting through Spring, and UW Professor Cliff Mass recently blogged about it here. Though a warmer and drier winter is predicted, preparing for the unexpected is always a good plan.

snow cars (rs)


Here’s a Vehicle preparedness Checklist:

  • Warm clothes in trunk
  • Chains or other traction devices in trunk
  • Full gas tank
  • Sand/shovel in trunk
  • Window ice scraper
  • Flares, flashlight in trunk
  • Antifreeze
  • Family emergency plan
  • Familiarity with school and daycare plans
  • Alternative shelter plans
  • Alternative transportation arrangements
  • Identified snow routes
  • Bus timetables

SDOT works closely with King County Metro Transit, the Seattle School District, local universities, hospitals, and major employers to ensure our snow-fighting work maintains mobility for people and goods, and access to the region. The snow route map shows where we will focus our snow-fighting efforts. Those streets will be treated with de-icer and plowed when the storm hits. Now is a good time to plan routes to get to work, the grocery store, child care and medical appointments.

Winter Storms – Here’s Our Plan

In Seattle, winter can bring heavy rain, high winds, ice and snow.  We’re monitoring conditions.

  • Our staff follows weather reports 24 hours a day, all year long, with a direct line to the National Weather Service and live Doppler radar feeds.
  • We use a forecasting tool developed with the University of Washington called SNOWWATCH to learn how a storm will most likely affect different neighborhoods. This information helps determine where the crews will be needed first.
  • Our computerized sensors located on city bridges, and also ground surface sensors, provide timely and accurate air and roadway surface temperatures.
  • We use real-time, live-streaming cameras to see actual conditions on key streets. You can see the camera views on SDOT’s website, www.seattle.gov/travelers.

The City of Seattle takes a proactive approach, using best practices to respond to snow and ice:

  • SDOT crews use trucks fitted with plows and salt-spreaders to keep major streets clear.
  • When conditions allow, the crews pre-treat key streets and bridges with salt brine before the snow starts falling to help prevent ice from forming.
  • As the snow begins to fall, the crews continue to drive their routes, treating the roadway with salt brine or granular salt where needed. When approximately one inch of snow has accumulated, they begin plowing.
  • During a snow event, a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system tracks the locations of the trucks.  The Winter Weather Response Map on SDOT’s website shows where the trucks are at the current time and also which streets the trucks have already serviced. During a major storm you will be able to see the map on our website at web6.seattle.gov/sdot/winterweathermap.

When Storms are Headed Our Way – We’re Preparing

We will plow major streets. These are the streets that are most important for getting to major public institutions such as hospitals and schools; the streets that are most frequently used by police, fire trucks and buses; and streets leading to Seattle’s major employers. We do not plow non-arterial streets.

  • We start preparing for winter in the summer, training staff, calibrating equipment and working with local agency partners.
  • When high winds or heavy rain are forecast, our crews are ready to remove fallen trees from the road, and to repair signs and signals.
  • Our supplies of granular salt and salt brine are ready to help keep ice from forming on main city streets and bridges.

snow plows

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