The Seattle Department of Transportation’s goal is to achieve bare and wet pavement on specified streets within twelve hours after a significant lull in the storm.
Seattle’s Winter Environment
SDOT has developed a snow and ice response plan that is appropriate for Seattle’s weather to keep major streets open and passable to the greatest extent possible. There are unique challenges in our city.
In Seattle, some winters bring heavy snowfall and other years see no snow accumulation at all. A weather phenomenon called the Puget Sound Convergence Zone causes some parts of the city to get inches of snow, while other parts get rain or even sun.
Seattle is not Snoqualmie Pass! In Seattle, we may use the same trucks for paving streets one day and for winter weather response the next. An investment in equipment that is exclusively dedicated to snow fighting would not be a good value for the taxpayers year to year.
Steep topography, like the Queen Anne Counterbalance, First Hill and the intersection of 35th Avenue SW and Avalon, add to the complexity of snow fighting in Seattle. Hills can consume lots of time and effort and still not be drivable. A few stuck cars can tie up an important arterial for hours.
In any city, snow fighting is complicated by urban factors such as parked cars, pedestrians and narrow streets. Cities with regular heavy snowfall often have winter parking restrictions that make it easier to plow streets. Since we don’t have regular significant snowfall in Seattle, these sorts of parking restrictions are not practical.
What to Expect When it Snows
Know the routes on the Winter Weather snow and ice route map! SDOT commits to clearing snow from identified routes throughout the city within 12 hours of a significant lull in the storm. The map can help you know what to expect.
We commit to using all the tools at our disposal to make sure that the people of Seattle as well as our interagency partners are fully informed and involved in our snow response.
SDOT and Metro have worked together to keep bus routes as clear of snow and ice as possible. The goal is to enable people to get around the city by bus, making it easier to leave their cars at home.
Drivers have some special responsibilities. If driving is unavoidable, drivers are responsible for outfitting their cars for winter weather, including chains or other traction devices. We will plow snow to the right so that melting snow will not pass back over the street surface and refreeze when the temperature drops at night. If your car is parked on a snow route, you may have to dig it out.Businesses and residents are responsible for shoveling and de-icing the sidewalks next to their property.