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City of Seattle

November 1, 12:17 PM click here to comment > 0

Mayor outlines Seattle’s winter storm preparedness efforts

Mayor Mike McGinn today encouraged residents to begin making annual preparations for the possibility of winter weather-related emergencies and updated the public on how the City is preparing for winter storms. McGinn described online tools available to the public to help them track storms and their impact on City services. He also described efforts the City is taking to help support storm recovery on the East Coast.

“Whether it’s heavy rain, snow and ice, or strong winds, winter weather can cause significant disruption to our lives and our economy. Now is the time to start to prepare for storms, and the City is here to help support the public as they get ready for winter,” McGinn said.

McGinn also described online tools available to the public to help them prepare and cope with winter weather. Seattle Public Utilities’ Rainwatch program – developed in partnership with UW meteorologists Cliff Mass and Phil Regulski – tracks storms and forecasts rain at the neighborhood level, providing the region’s most accurate and precise weather tracking and forecasting system. Our program Snowwatch uses data from Rainwatch, combined with temperature trends, to estimate and predict snowfall. Seattle City Light’s Windwatch provides the same function for forecasting of high winds, and their Outage Map tracks power outages across Seattle. McGinn also highlighted the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Response Map, which helps residents plan trips based on traffic cameras and real-time information about where our snow ploys are deployed.

“The single biggest thing that Seattleites can do to help prevent urban flooding is to clean leaves out of street drains,” said Seattle Public Utilities director Ray Hoffman.

There are several ways that residents can help their families and the City respond to disruptions, including loss of power, during winter storms:

  • Residents should always have a three-day supply of water and food that does not need to be cooked;
  • Have extra blankets on hand and close the doors to rooms you aren’t using to help keep warm;
  • Don’t bring your barbecue or any fossil fuel burning stove inside your house to cook when the power goes out – this could cause carbon monoxide poisoning;
  • A hand-crank radio and a hand-crank flashlight should be available – please don’t use open flames such as candles;
  • The City of Seattle is a partner in the regional Take Winter By Storm effort – residents are encouraged to visit for more tips on being prepared for winter;
  • Call 206-684-7400 to report a power outage, to find out about reported outages and to asked to have call-back when your power is restored. Seattle City Light needs your current phone number – both home and cell – in order to respond to your call.

Complete checklists are available at Tips for what to do when the power goes out are available at

In the event of snow and ice, the Seattle Department of Transportation has 40 snowplows of various sizes and configurations and 4 anti-icing vehicles available. They have trained an operator pool within the City utilities and parks departments to cover all shifts. SDOT currently have 3,800 tons of granular salt & 47,000 gallons anti-icing storage capacity, roughly three times more granular salt storage than last season. 11 new roadway surface temperature sensors have been purchased and are being installed to help SDOT improve their ability to deploy resources as needed.

In addition to helping Seattle City Light customers prepare themselves for power outages, in the six years since the December 2006 windstorm that knocked out half of their distribution system, City Light has reorganized its storm response procedures. They have installed a computerized outage management system to coordinate restoration work and customer communications; and increased tree trimming to avoid outages from branches coming into contact with power lines. In 2012, City Light cleared more than 600 line miles of trees from power lines. Since 2007 the utility has cleared 2375 line miles. Since 2007, City Light has added 100 line workers and re-instated their apprenticeship programs.

“Our crews are ready to respond and restore service as quickly and as safely as possible, but it is always important for each of us to be prepared for a power outage,” Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said.

Seattle Public Utilities crews work year round to get ready for storm season. By the end of this summer, the crews had pumped out over 4,300 catch basins and inspected over 25,000. They had inspected 85 miles of pipes and cleaned more than 164 miles of pipes.

SPU is also preparing its Urban Flood Response Plan. When activated, the utility puts field crews on alert, and stages flood control equipment at various locations around the city. SPU deploys volunteer storm observers to monitor various flood-prone areas, freeing up crews to do the work they need to do such as clearing drains. Regular City crews can be called in if needed for assistance.

Posted by: Words: April Thomas, Pictures: Jen Nance