Seattle lays out response plan as it braces for ‘major snow event’
With snow in the forecast over the next week, Seattle city officials gathered Thursday to lay out their plan for keeping things moving if and when it arrives.
Current forecasts call for light, slushy snowfall Friday morning. It’s Sunday, though, when things could begin to get dicey, thanks to what the National Weather Service labels a “modified arctic front.”
“That will open the door for the chance of snow through the middle of next week,” said the NWS in its long-term forecast.
After that, all of Western Washington could be in for “a major snow event” next Wednesday and Thursday, according to University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Cliff Mass.
To tackle that, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Department of Transportation head Sam Zimbabwe urged property owners to shovel snow off sidewalks directly in front of their respective homes.
That’s actually something required by law, a point Durkan and Zimbabwe emphasized numerous times during Thursday’s press conference.
“Clearing the sidewalk is not just the law; it’s the right thing to do,” said Durkan.
Property owners will be issued a notification if their sidewalk needs to be cleared. If that’s not heeded, residential property owners will be fined $50. Non-residential properties are fined $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for the third.
Beyond that, Zimbabwe noted that plans for snow plows haven’t been drastically altered since Seattle’s February 2019 snowstorms.
“We haven’t radically changed the level of plowing that we’re going to do,” he noted. “The plowing operations and our ability to deploy our crews was largely pretty successful [in 2019].”
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Seattle employs 35 total snow plows, that largely prioritize transit and emergency routes, freeways, and the downtown area. For those waiting on plows in lesser traveled arterial areas, Durkan asked for patience.
“We have almost 70 million square feet in the city of Seattle, and we have 35 snow plows at any given time,” she outlined. “Our plan is to focus on the things we need to plow to keep things moving — emergency lanes, bus routes. Don’t expect that your neighborhood will be plowed immediately.”
Should a major snow event descend on Seattle, the city will be working around the clock on its responses to keep major roads and emergency routes clear, shelter the homeless in emergency beds, and more.
“We are ready to work 24/7,” Zimbabwe promised.