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SDOT Snow and Ice Home Page
Frequently Asked Questions About Snow & Ice Removal in Seattle
List of Streets Likely to be Closed in Event of Snow
City of Seattle Snow & Ice Plan Summary
How to Prepare for Winter Storms
Fallen Trees, Branches and Powerlines
Prepare Your Trees for Winter
Winter Driving Tips
Weather Emergency Tips
Snowplow Stewards
Useful Phone Numbers

Weather Emergency Tips

Weather Emergency Tips from Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Transportation, and the Department of Planning and Development.

Seattle can experience weather-related emergencies at any time. This information provides emergency telephone numbers and tips on how to protect yourself and your property. *


Sewer Backups
Preventing Serious Health Problems from a Sewer Backup
Preventing Neighborhood Drainage Problems
Power Outages
Streets and Sidewalks
Emergency Contacts
Other resources

* Disclaimer: Emergency conditions are unique. This information should not be relied upon as prescribing a recommended course of action in particular circumstances. Use your own judgment as to the best way to respond to a weather-related emergency.

Top of PageDrainage

  • Check your home's drainage system. Maintaining the drainage system on private property is the owner's responsibility.

  • Make sure your drainage system directs water away from your foundation and not on to your neighbor's property. Never discharge water over the side of a steep hill.

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts. Check your gutters once a week during fall and winter. Just one wind or rainstorm can clog a well-flowing drainage system.

  • Rake up leaves. Leaves clog drains and that can lead to flooding.

  • For more information about Seattle Public Utilities' yard waste service or to subscribe, call (206) 684-3000.

  • Water is the most common cause of unstable slopes, mud slides and erosion. Check your property for signs of earth movement, such as leaning trees, or cracks in the soil and under sidewalks. If you have a problem, contact a soils engineer (see the Yellow Pages, under "Engineers-Geotechnical-Soils") to evaluate the situation.

  • In general, trees and plants with strong root structures help prevent soil erosion but do not prevent landslides.
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Sewer Backups

  • Your home's side sewer runs from the house to the mainline sewer in the street. Maintaining the side sewer is the owner's responsibility. Keep roots or other obstructions from blocking your home's side sewer. If you need repairs for a side sewer backup, look under "Plumbing, Drains and Sewer Cleaning" in The Yellow Pages.

  • If there is a heavy storm and sewage backs up through sinks or toilets, call Seattle Public Utilities' sewer and drainage maintenance staff, (206) 386-1800. City workers will check and remove blockages in the main sewer line. If the problem is the result of too much storm water in the system, you may have to wait until the storm has subsided to have the backup resolved.
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Preventing Serious Health Problems from a Sewer Backup

  • Turn off all power to eliminate electrical hazards.

  • Keep children and pets away from the area.

  • Thoroughly clean the contaminated area. Use rubber gloves and disinfectants.

  • Discard saturated wall-to-wall carpet and pad; clean all hard surfaces with hot water and soap, then rinse with a bleach solution of one tablespoon of household bleach to one gallon of water.

  • Public Health-Seattle and King County has more detailed information, (206) 296-4932.
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Preventing Neighborhood Drainage Problems

  • Never block any part of the city's drainage system. Do not put leaves, dirt, grass clippings or any materials in ditches, culverts or drains. Doing so can cause flooding.

  • It is against the law to dump any material into the drainage system. To report illegal dumping, call (206) 684-7587.
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Power Outages

  • Call the Seattle City Light Power Outage Hotline at (206) 684-7400 for a recording of all known outages. If your area is not mentioned, let us know.

  • Have a power outage kit, including a flashlight with batteries, lantern, matches, glow-in-the-dark light sticks, wind-up clock, portable radio, manual can opener and mylar blanket.

  • Use hot water sparingly. Most hot water tanks will retain heat for up to 24 hours. This can also be your source of emergency drinking water.

  • Know how to manually override your electric garage door if you have one.

  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment. Switch electrical appliances off to prevent fires and equipment damage. Leave one or two lights on to let you know when service is restored.

  • Dress in layers to conserve body heat. Close doors, windows, curtains and unused fireplace dampers to preserve heat.

  • Use battery-powered flashlights for illumination. Avoid candles, oil lamps or anything with an open flame.

  • Adequately vent fueled space heaters (e.g., kerosene, propane, alcohol) to avoid fatal carbon monoxide gas buildup.

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible to keep food fresh. A full refrigerator will maintain safe temperatures for up to six hours; a full freezer for up to two days. Discard at-risk refrigerated foods that are warmer than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If in doubt, throw it out.

  • If used incorrectly, generators pose a significant hazard to both the user and crews attempting to restore power. Plug appliances and fixtures directly into the outlets of the generator, not into your home circuitry. Be sure to use generators in a well-ventilated area.

  • When power is restored, turn on electrical appliances gradually. Sudden heavy consumption can damage the electrical system and extend the outage.
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Streets and Sidewalks

  • Traffic signals can be twisted to face the wrong direction or lose power during a storm. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning signals as all-way stops and use extreme caution. Traffic signs can fall. To report signal or sign problems that create dangerous situations and/or in circumstances where immediate traffic control is needed, call 911. Otherwise, call Seattle Transportation's traffic shop at (206) 386-1206.

  • Fallen trees, mud from landslides, or other debris can block streets or sidewalks. If conditions are dangerous, call 911. Otherwise, call Seattle Transportation's 24-hour street emergency number: (206) 386-1218. (During the day, call (206) 684-7508 for emergencies north of Denny Way).

  • Sidewalks are the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. Keep the sidewalks next to your home or business free of ice, snow or slippery leaves.

  • Do not drive through a flooded street if you cannot see the bottom of the water - you cannot be sure how deep it is, and it could be very dangerous. If you have any doubts whatsoever about your safety, do not drive through a flooded area. If you choose to drive through shallow water, driving slowly could keep upward splashes from stalling the engine.

  • Beware of ice. When it's cold, drive as if there might be ice on the pavement-slow down and allow extra room between vehicles. Fog or early morning conditions can result in black ice. Streets in the shade or elevated roadways often have ice when other places are clear.

  • Snow plans: Know the snow plan for your place of work and your children's school. Make a plan for your family. Know the snow route for the bus you would take.

  • Drive only if you have to during winter storms. Make sure your car has antifreeze, a windshield scraper, and proper tires or chains for driving in snow. Have sand or other traction material and a shovel in the car. Keep a flashlight, gloves, hat and boots in your car; also water and food in case you become stranded. If you must abandon your car, pull as far off the road as possible so snowplows can clear the street.

  • Arterial streets are plowed first during a storm-those leading toward downtown Seattle in the early morning and away from downtown in the afternoon. Non-arterial streets are plowed only when the arterial streets are cleared. Streets with steep slopes may be closed. Plan your route accordingly.

  • Do not allow your children to sled in the street, even if the street is closed to traffic-it is very dangerous. Call Seattle Parks and Recreation at (206) 684-4075 to learn if a golf course or park has been designated for sledding.
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  • To report a life-threatening landslide - evacuate the property and call 911. To report private property landslides that do not threaten public safety, call the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) (206) 684-8950 during business hours.

  • In the event that a landslide causes damage on your property, a DPD inspector, when notified of the event, can assess the hazard and its impact to structures in the area of the slide. Due to safety considerations, inspections will be limited to daylight hours. As a result of an inspection, your property/structure may receive a hazard placard posting of red, yellow or green.

  • A red placard means a structure has been determined to be severely damaged, unsafe and illegal to enter or occupy. It then becomes the owner's responsibility to comply with the posting and prevent building entry.

  • A yellow placard means there is damage or the structure may be dangerous to occupy. A yellow placard will usually restrict the use of the building - for example, no overnight occupancy or no use of a damaged or threatened portion of the structure.

  • A green placard indicates that although the building may have suffered damage, at this point in time it is safe to occupy.

  • In most cases, in order to change the status of a tagged building, you will need to hire a geotechnical and/or structural engineer (see the Yellow Pages, under "Engineers-Geotechnical-Soils") to provide a report to DPD describing the level of hazard for the building and any repairs needed.

  • As is the case in all emergency response, the initial evaluation is preliminary in nature and a final resolution and status will be deferred until such time as additional site-specific detailed information becomes available.
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Emergency Contacts:

Life-threatening emergencies - 911

Street damage emergencies that do not threaten public safety

North of Denny Way - (206) 684-7508
South of Denny Way* - (206) 386-1218
After hours* - (206) 386-1218
Traffic signal/sign problems* - (206) 386-1206
Drainage or sewer emergencies* - (206) 386-1800
Fire hydrant or water utility problems* - (206) 386-1800
Electrical Outages* - (206) 684-7400
Electrical Emergencies - (206) 706-0051
Red Cross* - (206) 323-2345
(emergency shelter, other assistance)

Emergency Resource Center

During significant weather-related emergencies that result in multiple landslides and/or water, drainage, sewer or electrical outage problems, the City may activate the Storm-Slide Citizen Resource number (206) 684-3355. Staff at this number may provide updates and answer questions during weather-related emergencies.

*24-hour telephone numbers

The Washington Relay Service is available for deaf or hard of hearing individuals only. Call 711 to access this service.

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Other Resources

Private property landslides that do not threaten public safety;

Information about DPD-tagged property - (206) 684-8950

Building repair permits Business Hours - (206) 684-8850

Low interest loans Business Hours - (206) 684-0244
Available for low to moderate income Seattle homeowners for home repairs with emphasis on code work, health and safety, energy efficiency, and accessibility. Homes must be owner-occupied and within the Seattle city limits.

Emergency Preparedness Information
Business Hours - (206) 233-5076

City of Seattle Emergency Management Web Site

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