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A blizzard of information as Seattle prepares for ‘a chance of snow’

A blizzard of preparedness activity and information is preceding the arrival of a “modified arctic front” set to blast Capitol Hill, Seattle, and Western Washington with a shock of freezing temperatures — and, yes, maybe some snow.

“An inch (or two) of snow is possible by sunrise Monday as northerly winds whipping down the Sound run smack-dab into warmer winds coming up from the south,” the Seattle Weather Blog warns. “School districts, be on guard for potential delays and/or closings Monday morning.”

The real concern — or excitement for those of you looking forward to a few snow days — could come late next week.

Capitol Hill got a slushy “snrain” preview Thursday morning. Similar flakes are expected Friday here but don’t expect any chance of accumulation until Sunday’s arctic blast arrives and the National Weather Service’s predictions of Seattle highs in the 20s plays out. A lack of predicted precipitation might keep snow away from Seattle. Things become more unsettled — and possibly snowier — later in the week.

Seattle city officials, meanwhile, are taking full advantage of the early warning to get the word out on how best to cope in Seattle ice and snow. Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle Department of Transportation director Sam Zimbabwe, and Office of Emergency Management director Barb Graff held a winter weather preparedness press conference Thursday “to ensure residents are prepared to navigate the potential impacts of any winter event.”

Here are a few things you should know:

  • The city typically expands its cold weather shelter services for weather like we’ll be facing next week. Not everybody will take advantage of it. Call 911 if you see somebody who appears to be in distress on the streets at any time — but especially when temperatures hover around freezing.
  • Grocery stores can get hit pretty hard especially if thing get messy enough that deliveries are delayed and shelves can’t be restocked. Grab a few essentials now but leave a six-pack for the rest of us.

From SDOT: During a major snow storm, we prioritize plowing the most critical routes to hospitals, schools, and major employers. You can plan your trip, see where the snow plows have been, and view live traffic cameras on our interactive winter weather map

If you absolutely need to drive, please take extra care and remember you’re responsible for outfitting your cars for winter weather, including chains or other traction devices. Look out for each other and be extra mindful of pedestrians and people biking.

If you are plan on using the bus, train, or ferry, know before you go:

  • See the latest information on Metro’s blog. They’ll keep their eye on the King County Metro Transit commute from 6-9 AM and again from 3-7 PM and will post about service disruptions.
  • Follow Metro’s RSS feed for real-time updates, bookmark their blog, or visit the Metro Online website for additional information and services.
  • If you take the train, find Sound Transit alerts and information here.

You can also follow: 

  • King County Metro on Twitter.
  • Washington State Ferries on Twitter.
  • Washington State Department of Transportation  on Twitter
  • Sound Transit Twitter
  • Side streets: Remember that side streets will not be cleared and may be covered with snow even when an artery route is clear.
  • Metro is prepared and hopefully will never again create viral Seattle snow videos. Its snow and winter weather updates are here. If it gets serious, expect delays in service and some canceled trips as articulated buses are moved out of service.
  • Also be ready for Metro “snow routes.”
  • Capitol Hill Station is a fully operational snow battle station. Sound Transit says it works to maintain “normal light rail service” during inclement weather, “although minor delays can occur.” It might also continue to operate trains overnight after the close of passenger service to prevent ice from forming on the tracks. But remember, light rail disruptions will continue through March.
  • The First Hill Streetcar can operate in snow not deeper than four inches. “If it surpasses that we will suspend operations,” a spokesperson tells CHS. You might also see a “freeze-train” that creates surface friction to keep the rails above freezing during low temperatures below 32 degrees.
  • The city’s “green and gold” snow clearance priority routes are here:
  • Now that it mostly has the snowplowing thing down, Seattle has been doing more to remind that clearing sidewalks of snow and ice in front of buildings and residences is the property owner’s responsibility:
    In Seattle, it’s the legal responsibility of businesses, contractors, and residents to care for sidewalks and other elements of the right-of-way next to private properties and job sites in a timely manner.

  •  The City has also produced this new Winter Weather brochure that it is making available at schools and libraries:
  • Public schools: You can find closure alerts here. Unless the rain forecasted for overnight Thursday never materializes, Friday morning should bring regular start times.
  • Airport: The FAA’s Sea-Tac status page is here.
  • The highest point on Capitol Hill, Volunteer Park, at 453 feet above sea level, is #5 on the list of Seattle’s highest elevations.
  • Best place to sled (mostly safely) are these CHS Volunteer Park Sled Runs. If it gets nuts, sledding down Denny is part of Capitol Hill legend. Watch out for moving cars of course but some of the most serious injuries come from hitting parked cars. Be careful.
  • Social media is a useful tool for keeping up to date on the conditions. Here are a few helpful Twitter accounts:
  • You can also check the CHS Street Cams page before you head out. And the CHS Weather page has the latest reports from local observations. See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959.

Big Snow Days in CHS History

  • SNOWBRUARY 2019 — 20.2″ — Yes, Snowbruary is not one day but last winter saw the snowiest month since 1969 in Seattle. We survived. But it was epic.
  • Feb. 22 2018 — trace — A sunny, slippery Thursday ahead after gentle snowfall on Capitol Hill: Take your time getting around Capitol Hill this morning. Most major streets are clear but sidewalks, stairs, and pretty much everything else is cold and icy after a gentle blanket of snowfall Wednesday night.
  • Feb. 6 2017 — 5” — Capitol Hill Super Snow LI open thread: Lots of fun and games for those with time to play Monday. We found a veritable kid winter olympics underway in Volunteer Park.
  • Dec. 9 2016 — 1/2” — Return of #seasnow open thread: Capitol Hill pictures, video, etc.Enjoy it while it lasts. Snow fell on Capitol Hill Thursday night in what looks likely to be the heaviest snowfall the area has seen since 2013 — like we reported earlier this week, the low bar is 7/10ths of an inch.
  • 2015 — 0” — No snow!
  • 2014 (Image: Tim Durkan)

    Feb. 8 2014 — 3” — Saturday night snow on Capitol Hill — UPDATE: Super Snow SundayCapitol Hill enjoyed a casual Saturday night snowfall that barely put a coat across the the neighborhood though things got a little heavier in the north toward Volunteer Park.

  • Dec. 20 2013 — 1” — #seasnow 2013: Capitol Hill Seattle snow updatesWhat was already likely to be a quiet Friday before Christmas on Capitol Hill and across the rest of the city is even more muffled — and lovely! — after the predicted blanket of snow did, indeed, settle across the Puget Sound beginning early this morning just before 4 AM.
  • 2010 — Return of the Denny sled run (Image: David Lichterman)

    Jan. 18 2012 — 7” — Capitol Hill #seasnow | Snow day pictures + what comes nextThere is still a lot of fun to be had as this snow day becomes a snow night on Capitol Hill. But we’re starting to look ahead at what comes next… It will be a bit of a mess.

  • Jan. 11 2011 — 3” — 1/11/11 Snow Commute Open ThreadWith this much forewarning, it’s almost impossible to take the concerns seriously and, yet, latest reports and updates from the City of Seattle indicate that we’re about to get hit by drive-time snow around the Puget Sound.
  • Nov. 22 2010 — 2 1/2” — Capitol Hill #snomg Thanksgiving week 2010: Monday night updateIf you told us this morning — #snomg Monday Update –– that we’d be producing a second #snomg update today, we’d have told you about Cliff Mass and sat back comfortably and.. wait.
  • Jan. 4 2009 — 3 1/2” — Crap, it’s snowing (& sticking) again on the HillClearly, this is just nature reminding you of Tuesday’s city council session where they’ll be discussing December’s snow and ice craziness.
  • Dec. 21 2008 — 8″ — Hanukkah Eve Storm III Open ThreadSomewhere between 4″ and 6″ fell in the Capitol Hill area overnight. Maybe 9″ since it all began.

    2008 (Image: Aghman)

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