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The Seattle Department of Transportation is mobilizing for winter storms

The Seattle Department of Transportation is mobilizing for winter storms and encourages the public to prepare and travel with caution


Seattle (December 21, 2022) – With the potential for freezing rain and ice accumulation later this week, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) recommends that people minimize outdoor activities and avoid travel when possible, as conditions may be slick and icy headed into the holidays. If you do need to leave your home, please be cautious of black ice both on the roads and sidewalks while traveling. SDOT continues to treat roads and use the winter vehicle fleet to combat ice. Visit our Winter Weather Response resource webpage and SDOT Blog for more information to stay safe and remain informed.

The Seattle Department of Transportation prepares for winter storms year-round. We have developed and refined our tactics for our Winter Response Plan. Protecting public safety and ensuring people have reliable access to transit are our top priorities, especially when it is snowy or icy. When winter storms are imminent, we monitor weather conditions 24/7 and pre-treat major roads before it begins to snow to prevent ice from forming.

During and after a big storm, it’s safest not to drive. If you need to travel, taking transit is your best bet. We work closely with King County Metro to keep bus routes as clear of snow and ice as possible. Visit MetroWinter.com for more information. You can also sign up for Transit Alerts, visit the Trip Planner webpage or app, and use Text for Departure by texting your bus stop number to 62550.

If you absolutely need to drive, here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Clear your entire vehicle of snow.

  • Slow down, take your time, and be careful. Watch out for others.

  • Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the road and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.

  • Watch for traffic ahead and slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, fishtailing cars, sideways skids, or emergency flashers.

  • Leave plenty of room for snow plows and other vehicles. Stay back, don’t pass, and remember that some plows throw snow on both sides as they work.

  • Pay close attention to road closure signs. If a street is closed, it is unsafe to drive on. If you can’t see any hazards, there may be black ice or a trouble spot beyond your view.

  • When traffic lights are out, you must come to a complete stop at intersections or roadways where the traffic lights are not on. Treat the light as a stop sign. If it is a four-way intersection, you must treat it as a four-way stop.

  • If you need to report a hazard or roadblock, contact our Customer Service Team at 206-684-ROAD or email 684-ROAD@Seattle.gov,

  • Be extra mindful of people walking and biking. Remember you are responsible for outfitting your cars with chains or traction devices for winter weather. Keep an emergency kit in your car, just in case.

Thinking about biking in the snow? We have a designated team and specialized snow plow for clearing our city’s protected bike lanes, but it takes time to clear bike routes. If you decide to bike in the snow, please dress for the weather with reflective clothes, use lights, and wear a helmet. Conditions can change anytime, so ride slowly, use caution, and remember that drivers may need more time to stop and could be navigating unfamiliar road conditions.

Please also use caution when walking or rolling, as sidewalk conditions can be slippery when covered in snow and ice. Make sure you walk or roll on paved paths and be cautious of black ice. With over 2,400 miles of sidewalk in Seattle, we ask you to clear ice and snow from the sidewalks, curb ramps, and drains around your home, business, and job site. If you haven’t already and can, now is the time to buy a snow shovel, salt, de-icers, and any other winter equipment you need. We’re counting on neighbors to come together to create a plan to clear your sidewalks of snow and ice to keep everyone in our communities safe and moving. It’s not just the law; it’s the right thing to do so that everyone can travel safely during a snowstorm, especially people who have disabilities or have a harder time getting around.

SDOT crews are ready to go to work when high winds, heavy rain, or snow and ice are in the forecast. We work 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. Visit our Winter Weather Response webpage and SDOT Blog for more information.

During a severe storm, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews work 24/7 to clear interstate highways like I-5. SDOT crews clear the city’s most critical streets for buses and emergency services. As hard as we work, we can’t be everywhere at once, so it may take up to 12 hours after a break in the storm to clear all these roads. Many streets are too narrow or steep to plow safely. We prioritize plowing 1,200 miles of Seattle’s most critical routes to hospitals, schools, emergency services, and shelters. You can use this online Winter Weather Response Map to see real-time updates of which roads we’ve plowed and live camera feeds. Visit our Snow Plow Routes webpage for more information.

  • Stock up before the storm hits. To be fully prepared, pull together a snow shovel, a bag of street salt, warm clothes, extra blankets, flashlights, first aid kits, and a three-day supply of food, water, and medicine for the whole family in case the power goes out.

  • Before it freezes, sprinkle rock salt (or another environmentally friendly product) to prevent ice from forming.

  • 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, curb ramps, and drains on your block are kept clear so that everyone can get around safely.

  • Once it starts snowing, shovel your sidewalk every 12 hours before the snow turns to ice. If you can, help clear any storm drains and corner curb ramps on your block or lend a helping hand to any neighbors who may need it.

For additional information and printable copies of our Winter Weather brochure, visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/winter-weather.

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