Seattle Don’t Know Snow

SnowflakeAlthough the Seahawks pulled off a great victory Monday night on a snow-covered field (yes, that game really took place in Seattle, and not Greenbay), it is otherwise clear that Seattle just doesn’t know snow or cold weather. Our first snow appeared late Sunday for a few hours, but nothing stuck around. The forecast for Monday called for snow or sleet late in the evening, or early in the night. What came down at 5:00PM, was a bit earlier than they predicted, and it was a weird freezing rain, with very large round balls rather than flakes (almost like a light hail). But it was still warm enough outside (at least in the city) that the roads were just wet. But alas, Seattle-ites don’t even know how to drive in rainy conditions, let alone a mix of colder wet stuff. Add in the factor of early Seahawks traffic for the downtown home game and the recipe was there for disaster. A few stories of commutes I heard were: 1 1/2 hours from downtown Seattle to Greenwood by car (normally 15-20 minutes), 1 1/2 hours from downtown to Magnolia by bus (normally 20 minutes), 4 hours from Kirkland to Seattle by bus (normally 1 hour), 4 hours from Sea-Tac Airport by shuttle and bus (normally 30 minutes), 4 1/2 hours from Seattle to Tacoma (normally 45 minutes).

But it continues…

So that’s all fun, and then there’s the first kicker: King County Department of Transportation royally fucked up. Somehow the weather forecast that the DoT got for Monday night just said rain. According to the local news stations, the DoT was going by an entirely different forecast than everyone else. Don’t all of the weather forecasts come from the same National Weather Service or something? Anyway, late Monday afternoon all of the DoT folk headed home, after making the call to their snowplow fleet (all 40 of ’em) to stay ready, but not to use their expensive liquid de-icer on the roads (don’t they know about the cheaper alternative of salt and sand mix?). Guess what happened next? For the next 4 hours, as the temperatures dropped, and all of the Department of Transportation employees were stuck in traffic… the roads iced over. Accidents galore, buses that couldn’t make it up hills or onto entrance ramps, major streets through downtown closed or blocked by multi-car accidents, and dozens and dozens of cars stuck, stranded or abandoned on the sides of roads outside of the city. By the time the DoT managers were able to reconnect and chat again around 10PM, to give the green light on de-icer, it was too late. Way to go, guys!

And here’s the second kicker: Monday night they closed all of the schools for Tuesday? The night before!? I grew up in New England, where even if there was an epic Winter blizzard starting the night before, we still had to wake up the next morning and listen to the radio to see if school was canceled. Only if there were inches of accumulation, and a solid forecast for it to continue all day, would they close school. In Seattle… closed with a little wet snow and some cold temperatures the night before. I bundled up Tuesday morning, expecting buses to be cancelled, but I walked a block, the bus pulled up (with some very unnecessary tire chains), and the roads were completely dry. There was some ice on the side streets on the hills and suburbs, but that was it. Downtown was cold, dry and virtually deserted all day.

Ah, but there’s more… Tuesday night: schools cancelled for Wednesday. What!? Nothing happened all day! No precipitation! It was just cold. The forecast for Wednesday night was for warming temperatures, and a mix of snow and rain, turning into plain rain overnight. Work decided to close the office at 4PM Wednesday to make sure we all got home safely. Again, WTF!? It’s getting warmer!

There are already some nearby districts canceling school for tomorrow (Thursday). Outside there are big fluffy snowflakes coming down, but the temperature is already above freezing and it’s supposed to be 40 degrees by morning. I just don’t get it. What’s wrong with this city, that a little bit of white stuff or a chilly day can shut us down so completely.

There are occasional times when I miss New England, and right now I really miss the people who know how to deal with a little bit of Winter.

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