Let it snow! Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re ready for winter storms.

During a severe storm, our crews work 24/7 to clear the city’s most critical streets for buses and emergency services. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Winter Weather Response Website

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Summary 

  • Some parts of the Seattle region had their first glimpse of snow yesterday, on the Winter Solstice! 
  • We prepare for winter storms year round.  
  • Protecting public safety and making sure people have reliable access to transit are our top priorities, especially when it is snowy or icy. 
  • During and after a big storm, it’s safest not to drive. If you need to leave your home, know that we work with King County Metro to keep bus routes as clear of snow and ice as possible. 
  • No matter how you get around, it’s important for you to know which streets have been cleared. Our mapWinter Weather Brochure, and other online resources show you which ones are our priorities! 
  • With over 2,400 miles of sidewalk in Seattle, we need your help to clear ice and snow from the sidewalks and curb ramps around your home and/or business. Please stock up, shovel your sidewalk, and support your neighbors who are physically unable to shovel the snow around their homes. 

In Seattle, winter can bring heavy rain, high winds, ice and snow (remember the last really big snow of February 2019?).  We prepare for snow year-round! Here’s how:

  • Our staff follows weather reports 24 hours a day 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. 
  • Ground and computerized sensors located on city bridges provide timely and accurate air and roadway surface temperatures. 
  • We use real-time, live-streaming cameras to see actual conditions on key streets. You, too, can see the camera views on our website

Protecting public safety and making sure people have reliable access to transit are our top priorities, especially when it is snowy or icy. 

We monitor conditions to make sure that you stay safe when winter storms are imminent. Our crews are ready to go to work when high winds, heavy rain, or snow and ice are in the forecast! We work to keep the roads clear of everything from fallen trees and branches to snow and ice, and to repair signs and signals. We also make sure that our supplies of salt and liquid anti-icer are stocked. 

During a severe storm, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews work 24/7 to clear interstate highways like I-5 and the SDOT crew clears the city’s most critical streets for buses and emergency services. As hard as we work, we can’t be everywhere at once, so it may take us up to 12 hours after a break in the storm to clear all these roads.   

During and after a big storm, it’s safest not to drive. If you do need to leave your home, taking transit is your best bet. In fact, we work with King County Metro to keep bus routes as clear of snow and ice as possible. Check out this Metro Matters blog post on winter weather and learn more at MetroWinter.com.  

People waiting at a streetcar shelter while a crew member shovels snow nearby. Snow is on the ground around the shelter.
A streetcar shelter on a Seattle snow day. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

We are committed to using all the tools at our disposal to make sure people can get around the city by bus. If you absolutely need to drive, here are some tips for staying safe: 

  • Please slow down, take your time, and be careful. Watch out for others. 
  • Leave plenty of room for snow plows and other vehicles. Stay back, don’t pass, and remember that some plows throw snow on both sides as they work. 
  • Pay close attention to road closure signs. If a street is closed, it means that it is unsafe to drive on. If you can’t see any hazards, there may be black ice or a trouble spot beyond your view.  
  • Be extra mindful of people walking or biking. Remember you are responsible for outfitting your cars with chains or traction devices for winter weather. Keep an emergency kit in your car just in case. 
  • Visit WSDOT.com/winter for more safe driving tips.  

Thinking about biking in the snow? We have a designated team and specialized snow plow for clearing our city’s protected bike lanes, but it takes time to clear bike routes. If you decide to bike in the snow, please dress for the weather with reflective clothes, lights and a helmet. Road conditions can change at any time, so ride slowly, use caution, and remember that drivers may need more time to stop and could be navigating unfamiliar road conditions. 

No matter how you get around, we know it’s important for you to know which streets have been cleared. 

A map shows planned snow plow routes in Seattle.

We can’t be everywhere at once, and many streets are too narrow or steep to plow safely. During a major snow storm, we prioritize plowing 1,200 miles of Seattle’s most critical routes to hospitals, schools, emergency services and shelters. 
 
This map shows our planned snow plow routes, and during a storm you can also use this online Storm Response Map to see real-time updates of which roads we’ve plowed and live camera feeds. 

This year, we have updated our winter weather response plan to address the new challenges of 2020. For example, we have made adjustments to our snow plow routes based on how traffic patterns have changed due to the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure. We also updated our plan so people can get to COVID-19 testing sites.  

With over 2,400 miles of sidewalk in Seattle, we need your help to clear ice and snow from the sidewalks around your home, business, and/or job site. Stock up, shovel nearby sidewalks, and help keep everyone in Seattle moving safely. 

A person shoveling snow on a sidewalk on a very snowy day in Seattle.

If you haven’t already and are able to, now is the time to buy a snow shovel, road salt (or other environmentally friendly de-icers), and any other winter equipment you need. We’re counting on neighbors to come together to create a plan to clear your sidewalks of ice and snow. It’s not just the law, it’s the right thing to do so that everyone can travel safely during a snow storm, especially people who have disabilities. 

Shoveling snow on the sidewalk in Seattle. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Here’s how you can prepare:  

  • Stock up before the storm hits. To be fully prepared, pull together a snow shovel, a bag of street salt, warm clothes, extra blankets, flashlights, first aid kits, and three-day supply of food, water and medicine for the whole family in case the power goes out
  • Before it freezes, sprinkle rock salt (or another environmentally-friendly  product to prevent ice from forming). 
  • Talk to your neighbors before a storm to find out who will need help in your community. Work together to support one another, and come up with a plan to ensure that all the sidewalks on your block are kept clear so that everyone can get around safely. 
  • Once it starts snowing, shovel your sidewalk every 12 hours before snow turns to ice. If you can, help clear any storm drains and corner curb ramps on your block, or lend a helping hand to any neighbors who may need it. 

Learn more and stay up-to-date on the latest conditions: