ORIGINAL 10:57 AM POST: We’re in the mayoral briefing room, 7th floor, City Hall downtown. The mayor promises a post-storm update, starting any time now. The trash-collection maps that have just gone up on easels near the podium are a hint at some of what will be discussed. You may find this on live TV somewhere, as all the stations are here (KOMO does a newscast at 11 am and its crews in particular have been doing more stringent equipment checks). If any stunning revelations emerge, we’ll add updates here – otherwise, stand by for a summary afterward.
11:05 UPDATE: The media packet just handed out pre-briefing says the city’s changing its salt policy and will use it in the future under certain circumstances. It also says “additional private contractors” will be hired for snow removal. They’re also speeding up the sand clearing from city streets.
11:23 AM UPDATE: After about 15 minutes, the mayor ended the briefing even though the questions hadn’t ended – including declining to answer a question about the Alaskan Way Viaduct. One of the last things he said was that those who have missed two weeks of trash pickup (including many in West Seattle who had Monday and Friday pickup dates) will get a rebate. He didn’t say exactly how much – so we are going to try to chase down a Seattle Public Utilities representative to ask for details. One striking thing he did say: The policy for priorities of street-clearing during snowstorms will not change – side streets will be on a “as we can get to them” basis – he reiterated that you have to be able to get to a primary arterial in order to get somewhere.
11:33 AM UPDATE: Just talked to Andy Ryan of SPU, before leaving City Hall – he says the details of that rebate have NOT yet been worked out – we’ll let you know as soon as they are. He also reiterates that if you have Monday-Wednesday pickup and they do NOT get to you by the end of today, be SURE to report it to the city because the special catch-up runs are still happening tomorrow (New Year’s Day) and they will be responding to those “you missed me” reports.
12:09 PM UPDATE: Sorry the “no comment” option was briefly on for this story – sometimes when working via Wi-Fi (as we were, at City Hall) that happens if an update “times out.” Fixed now, commenting is re-enabled. Also adding some of the collateral from the news conference – first, here is a city graphic of how trash collection will unfold over the next few days – click it for the full-size version:
We also are processing our video – look for a separate wrapup post with that – first, here’s the full text of the news release (not linked online so we’re cutting and pasting from what we got in e-mail):
Mayor amends city’s snow removal practice, adds crews to clean-up
SEATTLE – Mayor Greg Nickels announced today that additional private
contractors will be hired to speed clean-up of city streets sanded
during the winter storm. In addition, Nickels ordered the Seattle
Department of Transportation to amend its practice regarding the use of
salt on city streets and to improve coordination with King County
In future storms, SDOT will continue to use liquid de-icer but will
spread salt under the following emergency conditions:
●if 4 inches or more of snow are predicted
●if ice is predicted
●if extreme cold is predicted to last longer than 3 days
●on hills, arterials, and designated snow bus routes
●on routes to hospitals and other emergency facilities indicated by
Fire and Police
●on other facilities as dictated by the professional judgment of the
Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
Nickels also instructed all city departments involved with winter storm
operations – transportation, police, fire, human services, City Light,
and Seattle Public Utilities – to review their performance and make
policy recommendations by Jan. 30.
“This once-in-a-decade storm presented tough challenges for all our
city services,” said Nickels. “While our crews performed well, we
want to make sure we’re using best practices. I’m confident this
amendment to how SDOT uses salt will help in the worst situations while
making sure our lakes and rivers don’t suffer during routine
Deploying crews 24-hours a day for 14 days, SDOT achieved its goal of
maintaining passable conditions on all of the city’s primary and
secondary arterials, bridges and streets leading to hospitals.
Since 1998, SDOT had adopted a practice of avoiding direct use of salt
to melt snow and ice. Salt is well-documented to cause corrosion and
adversely impact fresh-water marine ecosystems. SDOT currently uses
Geomelt de-icer, which only contains a small element of salt. This has
proven effective in normal weather patterns of trace to 4 inches of snow
lasting 1-3 days.
The recent storm lasted 13 days and brought a continuous 2-8 inches of
snow every other day. The December 2008 series of storms left snow on
the ground far longer than any other occasion in the last 20 years – in
fact, nearly twice as long. Boeing Field had snow on the ground for 357
consecutive hours (almost 15 days). The runner-up was January 2004 at
187 hours (not quite 8 days).
The maximum accumulation this month was 11.3 inches. In the last 20
years, only the December 1996 storms accumulated more (17.9 inches), and
that snow was gone in about 6 days.
Ice built up in most parts of the city, and the recurring snow forced
SDOT crews to rework the primary routes, making it difficult to move on
to the secondary routes.
SDOT’s amended salt practice will provide greater flexibility in
extreme situations while maintaining the city’s environmental
commitments, said Nickels.
As part of the city’s annual storm preparedness, SDOT meets with King
County Metro and other partners to ensure a coordinated response to
winter weather. Following the most recent storm, SDOT and Metro agreed
that during periods of winter weather, Metro will assign a staff liaison
to SDOT’s operations office at Charles Street to provide SDOT with
Five SDOT street sweepers are already dispatched to neighborhoods
across the city to clean up sand, working from 10 pm to 5 am. Nickels
will seek an authorization of $230,000 from the city’s Emergency Fund
to pay for two additional private street sweepers. The crews will begin