When Winter Storms Hit, We Have a Plan

In Seattle, winter can bring heavy rain, high winds, ice and snow. To help you prepare, we have winter weather tips, resources and helpful maps on our Winter Weather Home Page. To help us prepare, we’re using the latest technology to assess, monitor and respond to whatever mother nature throws our way.

  • Our staff follows weather reports 24 hours a day, all year long, with a direct line to the National Weather Service and live Doppler radar feeds.
  • We use a forecasting tool developed with the University of Washington called SNOWWATCH to learn how a storm will most likely affect different neighborhoods. This information helps determine where the crews will be needed first.
  • Our computerized sensors on city bridges and ground surface sensors provide timely and accurate air and roadway surface temperatures.

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We take a proactive approach to inclement weather, preparing all year round to respond to snow and ice.

  • SDOT crews use trucks fitted with plows and salt-spreaders to keep major streets clear. Priority routes are shown on our snow route map.
  • When conditions allow, we pre-treat key streets and bridges with salt brine before the snow starts falling to help prevent ice from forming.
  • As the snow begins to fall, our crews continue to drive their routes, treating the roadway with salt brine or granular salt where needed. When approximately one inch of snow has accumulated, they begin plowing.
  • During a snow event, a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system tracks the locations of the trucks. The Winter Weather Response Map on SDOT’s website shows where the trucks are at the current time and also which streets the trucks have already serviced.
A loader redistributes salt after a new delivery has been received.

A loader redistributes salt after a new delivery has been received.

When Storms are Headed Our Way – We’re Preparing

We will plow major streets. These are the streets that are most important for getting to major public institutions such as hospitals and schools; the streets that are most frequently used by police, fire trucks and buses; and streets leading to Seattle’s major employers. We do not plow non-arterial streets.

  • We start preparing for winter in the summer, training staff, calibrating equipment and working with local agency partners.
  • When high winds or heavy rain are forecast, our crews are ready to remove fallen trees from the road, and to repair signs and signals.
  • Our supplies of granular salt and salt brine are ready to help keep ice from forming on main city streets and bridges.

SDOT works closely with King County Metro Transit, the Seattle School District, local universities, hospitals, and major employers to ensure our snow-fighting work maintains mobility for people and goods, and access to the region. Priority routes will be treated with de-icer and plowed when the storm hits. Now is a good time to plan routes to get to work, the grocery store, child care and medical appointments.

For more information about winter weather preparation, see SDOT’s Winter Weather Home Page.