Staying safe in the heat wave: how we’re protecting city infrastructure and reminders for safe and healthy travel 

The Fremont Bridge receives a water spray down during last summer’s heat wave, in June 2021. Photo credit: Michal Perlstein.

While Seattle’s summer weather had been relatively mild in recent weeks, hotter temperatures have arrived, with highs near the lower 90s expected much of this week. It is important we keep our streets and bridges cool as intense heat can cause damage. Thankfully, our crews are standing by and ready to respond to any weather-related damage such as sink holes or fissures. 

Green tile with white text regarding reporting damaged roadway and pavement, with an icon in the upper right, and contact information on how to reach SDOT, including the (206) 684-ROAD (7623) phone number.
Please help by reporting any damaged streets or pavement in Seattle. Graphic credit: SDOT

These rising temperatures also means we are preparing to conduct bridge cooling on the University, Fremont, and Ballard bridges. 

Image of an SDOT truck spraying down a bridge with water.
An SDOT truck spraying down one of Seattle’s movable bridges in summer 2020. Photo: SDOT 

We will begin to proactively spray down our steel bridges with water when temperatures hit sustained periods 85 degrees or higher, as part of our ongoing bridge maintenance program. This cooling method also helps to reduce the likelihood of the steel to expand and potentially create problems for bridge opening and closing functions. 

When we spray down the bridges, we close each bridge for a few minutes multiple times throughout the day. To ensure the water is safe for the environment, we also add a small amount of vitamin C to neutralize the chlorine in the water. 

Green graphic with white text that says: Thanks for your patience. We’re cooling off your bridges.  
To reduce the risk of Seattle’s draw bridges’ movable steel parts from expanding during extreme heat and getting stuck, our Crews are spraying cool water on bridges.
Bridge cooling graphic. Credit: SDOT 

Safe travel reminders 

If you plan on heading out during warmer weather, please stay safe! Biking, walking, and rolling can be fun ways to enjoy hot summer days, but can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. Always bring plenty of water and don’t push yourself past your limits. If you’re feeling light headed, take a break and move out of direct sunlight. 

When you need to travel, please make sure to follow these tips to stay cool and safe. 

Use sun protection: Take sunscreen, an umbrella or a wide-brimmed hat, and wear loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothing. 

Hydrate: Always carry water with you, and drink plenty throughout the day. If applicable, locate water bottle fill up stations or water fountains when outdoors, in case your water gets low. 

photo of person in a white shirt drinking water from a gray water bottle on a track.
Staying hydrated when temperatures are high is essential for health and safety. Photo credit: Nigel Msipa via Unsplash.com 

Plan ahead: Before heading out, check the weather, traffic conditions, and travel times if you’re taking public transit to avoid standing in direct sunlight for too long. Always familiarize yourself with routes or maps before you go.  

Check your vehicle: If you’re driving, checking to make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition can help you avoid breakdowns or tire blowouts. Check your air conditioner and coolant levels. Top off any vital engine fluids and make sure your battery is working. Also check your tire pressure before driving, as the combination of underinflated tires and hot pavement can lead to a blowout.  

Fuel up: Keep your tank at least three-quarters full. Running out of gas, especially in a remote location, is dangerous in intense heat.   

Get help: If your vehicle breaks down in extreme heat, call for assistance right away and run the air conditioner. If the A/C isn’t working, roll down all windows.  

Wait safely: If the temperature inside your vehicle becomes too hot, everyone, including pets, should exit carefully. Seek out or create a shaded area as far away from the travel lanes as possible. Be careful walking on the street surface, which can be hot enough to burn skin. Keep your shoes on and try to keep your pets’ paws off the pavement. If you’re stopped along the highway, raise the front hood and turn on hazard lights. Please keep in mind that parking in tall brush can start a fire.   

Avoid risky behaviors: You know the rules: Don’t text or drive distracted, obey posted speed limits, and always drive sober. Both alcohol and drugs can cause impairment. It’s illegal to drive impaired by any substance in all states – no exceptions. Alcohol and drugs can impair the skills critical for safe and responsible driving. This includes coordination, judgment, perception, and reaction time. 

Green graphic with white text that says: Stay cool. Stay hydrated. Take care. 
Use fans or air-conditioners.  
Check on your neighbors, especially seniors.  
Avoid outdoor activities during peak heat times.  
Never leave children or animals in a vehicle.  	 
Use a floatation device on the water.	 
If someone is showing signs of a heat stroke, call 911 immediately. 
Visit Alert Seattle’s Severe Weather webpage for tips and cooling locations open to the public: https://alert.seattle.gov/category/severe-weather/
Tips of how to keep you and others safe in warm weather. Credit: SDOT 

We hope you stay cool and find ways to safely enjoy the summer! 

Black and blue graphic with text: Safety. We believe everyone should be able to move safely throughout the City. Out goal is to create safe transportation environments and eliminate serious and fatal crashes in Seattle.
Safety is one of SDOT’s core values and goals. Graphic: SDOT. 
Blue and white graphic with animated people walking, rolling, driving, and taking transit. Text: Seattle Transportation Plan. Help us imagine the future of the transportation in Seattle!
Help us imagine the future of transportation in Seattle — visit our Seattle Transportation Plan Online Engagement Hub today! Graphic credit: SDOT