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We’ll help you through it…


Every year the Seattle Department of Transportation produces a Winter Weather brochure which is distributed to elementary schools throughout Seattle, public libraries, neighborhood service centers, medical centers, emergency responders and more.  This year is no exception, in fact we have surpassed the number of brochures distributed in past years – this year we have handed out over 58,300 brochures in seven languages! The brochures are also available online in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Somali and Korean.

The Winter Weather brochure features a large map of Seattle’s snow and ice routes, lists important telephone numbers and web sites to use during winter storms, and offers preparedness tips.

The department’s goal is to achieve bare and wet pavement on specified streets within twelve hours after a significant lull in the storm. The useful map in the brochure shows Gold and Emerald routes which are not an indicator of priority but, rather, the level of service which can be expected.  SDOT’s strategy is to treat streets of both the levels of service (Gold and Emerald) at the same time to keep traffic moving. The arterials selected are the most significant streets within the City that are the busiest streets connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods with downtown and the greater Puget Sound region. Gold routes are the streets of regional importance for hospitals, buses, large trucks and major employers. Our goal for these roads is bare and wet pavement across all lanes.  Emerald routes are streets of citywide importance for hospitals, buses and general traffic for which the department’s goal is to provide bare and wet pavement for one lane in each direction.

While SDOT has developed a snow and ice response plan that is appropriate for Seattle’s weather, there are unique challenges in our city to keep in mind.  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.

In addition, 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. And remember, SDOT does not treat non-arterial streets. 

Now, rather than when we get our first snowfall, is a good time to become familiar with our plan by visiting our Winter Weather website and reviewing the map. Why not download the brochure so you’ll know what to expect? You might want to make an extra copy and put it in your car’s glove compartment so you are ready! In addition, during a major winter storm, you can further plan your trip by seeing our Winter Weather Response Map which shows where the snow plows have been and you can also view our traffic cameras.