Winter Weather Response

We teamed up with Rooted in Rights to create a video to educate people on the importance of clearing snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their homes, businesses, and job sites. This information makes it easier and safer for everyone to get around after a winter storm!

Our Plan for Winter Storms

In Seattle, winter can bring heavy rain, high winds, ice, and snow. SDOT monitors conditions to make sure that you stay safe when winter storms are imminent. 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 our crews will be needed first. Ground surface sensors and computerized sensors located on city bridges provide timely and accurate air and roadway surface temperatures. We use real-time, live-streaming cameras to see actual conditions on key streets.

Our Goal is to Keep Seattle Moving Safely

During a severe storm, our crews work 24/7 to clear the city’s most critical streets for buses and emergency services. Before the snow starts falling, the crews pre-treat key streets and bridges with anti-icer to help prevent ice from forming. Once snow begins to fall, crews continuously plow their routes and treat the road with salt where needed as the snow continues to fall. There are about 1200 lane-miles of major streets in Seattle. It can take us up to 12 hours to clear all this ground after a break in the storm. GPS tracks the locations of the plows and trucks. A map on our website shows how recently a street has been cleared.

We Prepare for Snow All Year Long

In the summer, we train staff, calibrate equipment, and work with local agency partners. This means that our crews are ready to go to work when high winds, heavy rain, or snow and ice are forecast. Their job is to keep the roads clear of everything from fallen trees and branches to snow and ice, and to repair signs and signals. We also make sure that our supplies of salt and liquid anti-icer are stocked.

West Seattle High-Rise Bridge

Beyond the winter months, how travelers in and around West Seattle and the Duwamish Valley get around changed significantly in 2020. Over the next few years, people travelling to and from that region will continue to be impacted by increased congestion. We have ensured that West Seattle Bridge detour routes are on all current snow and ice routes. Here’s how you can help keep people and goods moving during this difficult time:

  1. Plan and expect more traffic on detour routes;
  2. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination;
  3. Try a new mode of transportation such as walking, biking, or taking the bus. Avoid driving alone, if possible;
  4. Be patient and kind to your fellow travelers and considerate of the neighbors who live along the streets you may be using.

Do Your Part to Keep Sidewalks Clear

We are all in this together and everyone has a responsibility to help keep sidewalks in front of your home or business clear during a snowstorm. There are over 2,400 miles of sidewalks in Seattle, and SDOT crews cannot be everywhere at once. We rely on you to do your part so that we can focus on clearing sidewalks that are not near privately owned buildings and keeping the city’s most critical streets clear.

Clearing the sidewalks in front of your home or business isn’t just the law, it’s also the right thing to do so that everyone can travel safely during a snow storm, especially people who are blind, disabled, or have a harder time getting around. Talk to your neighbors before a storm to find out who will need help in your community. Work together to support one another, and come up with a plan to ensure that all the sidewalks on your block are kept clear so that everyone can get around safely.

How to prepare:

  • Stock up before the storm hits. You’ll need a snow shovel, a bag of street salt, warm clothes, extra blankets, flashlights, first aid kits, and three-day supply of food, water, and medicine for the whole family;
  • Before it freezes, sprinkle rock salt (or another environmentally friendly product) to prevent ice from forming;
  • Once it starts snowing, shovel your sidewalk every 12 hours before snow turns to ice. If you can, be a good neighbor and help clear any storm drains and corner curb ramps on your block or lend a helping hand to any neighbors who may need it.