Where Seattle and WSDOT are sending their snow plows
With snow falling across the Puget Sound region, it can be tough to decipher which roads are safe and where streets and highways have been plowed and treated. To that end, both the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation have strategies to deliver that information.
Seattle employs 35 total snow plows, that largely prioritize transit and emergency routes, freeways, and the downtown area. Most major roads are plowed every 3 or more hours by crews working around the clock. That includes major highways like I-5 and I-90.
More remote areas and side streets — particularly in residential areas — tend to not be prioritized, although the city’s Storm Response Map shows that there are “planned response routes” for future treatment and plowing on most of these roads.
That all being said, side streets aren’t likely to get help right away in the wake of a major snowfall.
“We have almost 70 million square feet in the city of Seattle, and we have 35 snow plows at any given time,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan 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.”
You can track where and when every street in Seattle has most recently been plowed here.
Outside of Seattle, WSDOT has its own response plan to clear snow off of highways and major commuter routes, employing approximately 500 snow plows and dump trucks. Those vehicles cover more than 20,000 miles of lanes.
WSDOT uses advanced weather forecasting tools to anticipate where snow will fall, and deploys pre-treatment teams beforehand. That has them using anti-icing chemicals to help keep major highways clear even after inclement weather begins.
After snow arrives, teams switch to a “corrosion-inhibited liquid deicer that helps snow and ice to melt.” Plows then drive through to remove any remaining snow.
WSDOT prioritizes highways based on daily vehicle volumes, steep hills and sharp curves, and access to emergency services, school, businesses, and freight routes. You can see more information about where it focuses its efforts here.