City of Seattle Prepares for Winter Weather

SEATTLE (February 10, 2021) – The City of Seattle is closely monitoring impacts to services ahead of expected winter storms that will bring cold temperatures, ice, and potential snowfall through the weekend. Temperatures are expected to remain around or below freezing for the next several days with overnight temperatures in the low 20s.   

Individuals who live, work, or spend time in Seattle are encouraged to sign up for free emergency alerts from AlertSeattle to receive winter weather and other emergency information via text, phone call, and email. Visit alert.seattle.gov or text the word SEATTLE to 67283 to sign up.  

The following are updates from City departments on how the City is preparing and includes information on how residents can prepare for adverse weather:    

Seattle Department of Transportation  

Crews began pre-treating major roads and elevated structures Tuesday night in order to prevent ice from forming and allow us to clear roads more effectively in freezing temperatures.  

In the case of snowfall, crews will begin working 24/7 to ensure the city’s most critical streets for buses and emergency services are clear, prioritizing 1,200 miles of Seattle’s most critical routes to hospitals, schools, emergency services, shelters, and major employers. Crews will also be deployed to clear dozens of pedestrian overpasses, stairwells, and curb ramps that are not near homes or businesses.  

Snowplow routes have been updated based on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure, and so people can get to COVID-19 testing sites. SDOT continues to work closely with our partners at WSDOT and King County Metro on a regional snow response plan and to ensure that bus snow routes are clear of snow and ice as possible.  

There are over 2,400 miles of sidewalks in Seattle. When it snows, everyone has a responsibility to shovel the sidewalks around their homes and businesses. Clearing these sidewalks isn’t just the law, it’s also the right thing to do so that everyone can travel safely during a snowstorm, especially people who are disabled or have a harder time getting around.  

  • Visit www.seattle.gov/winterweather for information on how residents can stay safe, provides quick links for maps of power outages, snowplow routes as well as links to report down power lines and trees.  
  • Visit the SDOT Winter Weather Response webpage for more information, including a map of planned snow routes for live updates on which roads have been plowed during a storm.   
  • While SDOT is clearing surface streets, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will do their part to keep Seattle freeways as open to the extent possible but needs help from the traveling public to give crews room to work. If you need to venture out, the best decision is one that puts safety first. Visit WSDOT.com/winter for a guide on how to stay safe in hazardous driving conditions.    
  • Visit MetroWinter.com to determine if your bus route is operating and to find out whether it’s on the transit snow route.  You can also sign up for Transit Alerts, check out the Trip Planner webpage or app, and use Text for Departure by texting your bus stop number to 62550.   

Seattle Public Utilities   

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) works with the community to prepare for weather-related challenges including floods, frozen pipes, and icy roads before winter storms hit so that when they do, the impacts on neighborhoods are minimal.  SPU has staff ready to respond to any water-related issues.  SPU is also ready to assist partner departments like SDOT for snow-fighting operations.  

What residents can do to help:  

  • Protect indoor sink pipes that are against exterior walls by opening under-sink cabinet doors to allow indoor heat to circulate.  
  • Allow one indoor faucet to slowly drip cold water. Select the faucet that is the farthest from your front door.   
  • Protect water pipes from freezing in exposed or unheated areas (attics, basements, and garages) by wrapping them with tape and insulating materials from hardware stores.   
  • Drain and remove all outdoor hoses and cover faucets for hose bibs.  
  • Know where your shutoffs are located. If an emergency occurs, you’ll need to know how to shut off electricity, gas, and water at main switches and valves. You’ll want to know where these are BEFORE an emergency happens.  

If frozen pipes are suspected, follow these steps:   

  • Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home.  
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area.   
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe, an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, or an electric hairdryer. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices. Do not use electrical devices if there is standing water.  
  • If a water pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding. The shut-off valve can be indoors or outdoors, usually in a basement, crawlspace, or garage.  
  • If you cannot turn off the main shut-off valve, SPU customers can call (206) 386-1800 and a crew will turn off the water at the meter for a service charge.   

Get the latest information on any delays involving garbage, recycling, and yard waste pickup via Twitter & the At Your Service blog. In the event Solid Waste service is interrupted, customers should set out their waste on their regular pick-up day and leave it out through the following day. If it is not collected by the end of the following day, customers should bring it in and set it out on their next scheduled collection day. Residential customers will be permitted to set out extra waste the following collection day at no additional charge.  

Seattle City Light  

Seattle City Light (SCL) monitors weather conditions to prepare for potential power outages caused by high winds, heavy rain, or snow and ice. SCL is prepared with the necessary equipment, supplies, chains for trucks, etc., to respond to any outage. In case of outages, SCL has crews on standby ready to respond and work 24/7 until every single customer’s power is back on. Customers can track outages on our online outage map – www.seattle.gov/city-light/outages.   

Tips for staying safe in case of an outage:    

  • Be prepared for potential power outages with nonperishable food, flashlights, batteries, and blankets for every household member. Pets included.   
  • Charge your devices so you can pass the time, call if you need assistance, or keep an eye on the status of outages with our online outage map.   
  • If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized. Stay at least 35 feet away and call 911.    
  • During an outage, keep freezers and refrigerators closed.  
  • Close doors, windows, and curtains to retain heat. If safe, go to an alternate location for heating and cooling.  
  • If someone in your home is dependent on life support equipment, sign up for SCL’s Life Support Equipment Program for assistance during planned and unplanned outages.  
  • Avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning – never bring generators, camp stoves, or barbeques indoors.  
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from potential electrical surges when power is restored.   
  • Find more tips at https://powerlines.seattle.gov/outage/.  

Human Services Department  

In response to below-freezing temperatures and snow forecasted for later this week, the City of Seattle opened a severe weather overnight shelter at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion (305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109) on Tuesday, February 9. The shelter will open daily at 8 p.m. and remain open through the morning of Monday, February 15. The temporary shelter at Fisher Pavilion will be operated by The Salvation Army and has capacity for 78 individuals experiencing homelessness. Last night, 27 people utilized the shelter and this number is expected to increase over the coming days. Individuals will be served on a first-come, first-served basis each night. HSD is working to find a day-time operator of the shelter. Seattle Center will provide housekeeping and security at Fisher Pavilion. The temporary shelter spaces will meet COVID-19 safety protocols recommended by Public Health-Seattle & King County and the Centers for Disease Control which calls for COVID-19 screening for guests, expanded space to allow physical distancing, hygiene access, and increased sanitation guidelines. HSD is looking to open additional shelter spaces, however, due to COVID-19’s ongoing impacts on the shelter system, staffing capacity is severely limited for all our providers and presents additional challenges to opening multiple sites quickly.  

King County has opened the Jefferson Day Center (420 4th Avenue, Seattle 98104) as a men’s only severe weather shelter that can accommodate 25 men. The temporary shelter opened Tuesday, February 9, and will remain open through Saturday, February 13, and is operated by The Salvation Army.  

Outreach for People Experiencing Homelessness  

The City’s HOPE Team is coordinating outreach and shelter referrals into the temporary Fisher Pavilion shelter, and other City-funded shelters, in partnership with our contracted outreach providers. Seattle Parks is lending passenger vans to the HOPE Team and staff members will work with Health One in conducting evening welfare visits to people living unsheltered and will help with transporting individuals to available shelter resources. Transportation will be limited due to COVID-19 protocols, so anyone who can make it shelter themselves should do so. The HOPE Team has a supply of weather supplies to distribute including hand warmers, emergency blankets, and hats and gloves. The Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program will extend its operating hours and will proactively conduct outreach to people experiencing homelessness during the cold weather. This includes providing transportation to severe weather shelters and distributing hot drinks, warm clothing, hand warmers, and other warming resources. The Seattle Police Department is on standby to assist with transporting individuals as needed.  

For information about the temporary shelter, call 206-735-9461. If you need shelter, call 2-1-1 or 1-877-211-9274. For an emergency, call 9-1-1.  

Seattle Parks and Recreation  

  • During snow events, SPR maintenance staff focus on removing snow from critical park paths, sidewalks, and curb ramps, as well as around community centers.  
  • Our Tree Crew is prepared to work around the clock to respond to fallen trees and branches blocking paths, and our heavy equipment crews are prepared to respond to landslides at park sites and trails.   
  • When needed SPR crews support citywide snow response efforts, including hauling salt and supporting SDOT in snow and ice control.   
  • SPR is coordinating with HSD to plan for the activation of temporary emergency shelters at specific community center locations within current public health guidelines.   
  • During inclement weather, some of the limited in-person programs we are currently offering, including childcare, may be impacted. Please visit our website for up-to-date information on closures; for information on impacts to Child Care Programs, please refer to the Child Care Hotline: 206-684-4203.    

During snow events, our nearly 500 parks remain open, unless otherwise indicated. Please follow COVID-19 safety precautions when visiting parks or play areas, including using a face covering, maintaining social distancing, and washing hands frequently. We encourage all visitors to use caution in our outdoor spaces. Snow and ice can cause tree branches to snap; please stay out from under trees and avoid forested parks during a snow event.     

Office of Emergency Management  

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is monitoring weather conditions and impacts to City services while coordinating with departments to ensure their operational needs are met. OEM works with partner agencies year-round to ensure effective operational coordination between city departments and external partners. OEM began working with city departments in September to prepare for the upcoming winter storm season. OEM has also developed COVID-adapted plans and procedures to facilitate emergency response and operational coordination at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) level, including new virtual coordination options and increased on-site COVID safety protocols.   

Seattle Fire Department   

Seattle Fire is preparing the City’s four COVID-19 community testing sites for the inclement weather by pretreating the parking lot areas with salt and have a plan with SDOT to plow major routes to the site should snowfall occur. The sites will likely remain open as long as roads to the site are drivable. If a closure is set to occur, the information will be posted to the COVID-19 registration webpage and on Seattle Fire’s social media accounts.  

Residents should take steps to prevent home fires from occurring by giving heaters space and powering them properly. Be sure to test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never use a generator indoors, in a garage, or in a carport, and never cook inside on a charcoal or gas grill. Seattle Fire has historically responded to a lot of aid responses for slips and falls during snowstorms – ensure you wear shoes with good tread.  

Finance and Administrative Services Department  

Facilities, fleets, and logistics teams in the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) are actively engaged in deicing operations at various facilities across the City. FAS teams have emergency generators on standby and ready to access should power disruptions occur. Fleet Management crews are operating 24/7 in support of SDOT’s efforts.