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On Monday, our snow plow drivers practiced their routes to stay ready for winter storms!

SDOT snow plows ready for winter storms. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

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  • Practice makes perfect! Our snow plow team completed a training exercise earlier this week to prepare for snowy weather.   
  • Our crew and equipment come together from different city departments to handle snow and ice. We have assembled a strong and skilled team, along with important equipment, to handle the snowflakes that do come our way. 
  • This year, we updated our winter weather response plan to address current challenges, such as new traffic patterns due to the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure and the importance of accessing COVID-19 testing sites. Read more about our Winter Weather Response, Storm Response Map and more on our blog and website. 
  • It’s important for you to know Seattle’s snow routes. Get real-time updates of which roads SDOT has plowed and view live camera feeds of road conditions on our website. 
  • 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. 

Practice makes perfect! Our snow plow team completed a training exercise earlier this week to prepare for snowy weather.  

On Monday, our team drove snow plows on Seattle streets to continue testing equipment and get extra-familiar with their snow plow routes. We’ve been training and testing equipment year-round, and took advantage of the equipment preparation we’ve already done to make sure we’re ready for possible snowy weather. This “dry run” is part of a series of training and refresher courses that drivers take each year. 

With the possibility of snow in the forecast over the next week, we are prepared to respond to winter storms. Our fleet of snow and ice-fighting vehicles and equipment is ready to go, and crews from multiple City departments are standing by.  As always, we remain focused on the safety of our staff and the communities we serve. ”

Darren Morgan, SDOT Right of Way Maintenance & Urban Forestry Division Director 

We don’t normally get much snow (in fact, we receive an average of 5 inches per year, compared to the national average of 28 inches!) Still, we have assembled a strong and skilled team, along with important equipment, to handle the snowflakes that do come our way. 

Teams from across SDOT including Maintenance Operations, Street Maintenance and Concrete/Asphalt teams, Urban Forestry, SDOT Response Teams, and Traffic Signs & Markings – along with our amazing support staff made up of our dispatch and customer care teams, administrators, street use inspectors, Roadway Structures, and more – combine to form the SDOT Maintenance Operations snow and ice response group.

SDOT plow ready for the dry run.

Our skilled team of truck drivers, construction equipment operators, and maintenance laborers are trained to operate the plows. Crews learn de-icing and anti-icing procedures, snow routes and communications, and how to use equipment like spreader controls. In addition, crews can also learn about de-icing and anti-icing technology and snow fighting philosophy and management. 

When they aren’t driving snow plows, these team members perform other critical work all over the city. Some are Pothole Rangers, while others build access ramps, pour asphalt and cut and prune trees to manage the public right of way. Crew members from Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Parks and Recreation are also trained to drive snow response vehicles and are ready to help. 

SDOT plow ready for the dry run. Photo Credit: Ken Ewalt, SDOT.

Speaking of Pothole Rangers: Pothole patching is our first response to pavement damage and is needed to keep streets serviceable! Potholes also occur after heavy snowstormsThanks to the help of Seattle`s team of pothole rangers, potholes are repaired swiftly. Watch a video from the Seattle Channel archives about a Day in the Life of Pothole Rangers here. 

We work with the National Weather Service to monitor weather conditions 24/7, and when conditions allow we will pre-treat major roads before snow starts to prevent ice from forming. If snow begins to fall, we work around the clock to prioritize plowing and treating Seattle’s most critical routes to hospitals, schools, emergency services, and shelters.  

Fun fact: Even though Seattle does not have vehicles dedicated 100% to fighting snow and ice, we stay prepared. Unlike snowbelt cities, like Minneapolis and Green Bay, our trucks and plows are mainly used for other activities like construction and maintenance throughout the year. During the winter, they are reassigned to snow activities and outfitted with snow response gear when necessary. The same trucks that flush alleys and water our new street trees deliver liquid anti-icing brine to city streets.  We have some small equipment to clear snow and ice in our protected bike lanes and rent specialty equipment to help as well. 

Plows push the snow to the right of the street. This follows industry standards for snow and ice removal, ensures that snow and ice don’t accumulate along the middle of the road, and ensures people can make left turns to parking and side streets. However, if we expect to get 12 inches of snow or more, we will plow snow to the center of the street in the Downtown area. This allows us to haul away the snow so that it does not accumulate. 

A snow plow drives on Rainier Ave S. Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

There are some streets that are too narrow or steep to safely plow or treat with salt in icy conditions. We store Street Closed signs at the corners of these streets at the beginning of winter so they will be available when needed to close the streets. For your safety, it is important to obey the Street Closed signs even if a street looks safe to you.  There may be ice under the snow, or there may be a trouble spot beyond your view.   

As hard as our team works, they still can’t be everywhere at once, so it may take up to 12 hours after a break in the storm to clear major roads. That’s why we are asking you, too, to help us prepare for winter storms to keep everyone safe.  

It is everyone’s responsibility to clear ice and snow from the sidewalks and curb ramps around their homes and businesses in order to keep communities safe. It’s not just the law, it’s the right thing to do so that people of all ages and abilities can travel safely following a snowstorm if it becomes necessary.  

Here are some ways you can prepare for winter weather. 

  • Get familiar with Seattle’s snow routes. These are the streets that we prioritize clearing, so they will be the safest way to get where you need to go. Once it snows, use this online Storm Response Map to see real-time updates of which roads SDOT has plowed and live camera feeds of road conditions. 
  • Talk to your neighbors to see who may need help during a storm and make a plan to ensure that all the sidewalks on the block get shoveled. If you can, have a shovel and rock salt (or other environmentally friendly de-icing product) ready. If you’ll need help clearing your driveway and sidewalk, think about who you can ask for help.  

For more information and printable copies of our Winter Weather brochure in your language, visit: