VIDEO: In case of snow, ‘We want to make sure we’re ready as a city,’ says mayor @ media briefing

(WSB photos/video by Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Will we see significant snow soon?

While the forecasters keep watch on that, “We want to make sure we’re ready as a city. … we’ve got plans,” Mayor Jenny Durkan assured the media gathered for a briefing/Q&A at the city Emergency Operations Center downtown this afternoon. We were there and recorded it all on video, which includes other city/county officials:

A big theme: The “shovel your sidewalk” theme we noted earlier this week. The mayor stressed: “If we hit the snow period … check on your neighbors if you can. …. And help them shovel their sidewalks … our sidewalks are the way that people can get around in our city.” Go get a snow shovel or salt if you don’t have yours yet – flashlight batteries too, “candles and warm blankets,” her advice continued.

Sidewalk-responsibility awareness was boosted in a resolution sponsored last year by West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who was also at the EOC.

Though Herbold didn’t take the podium, she spoke with reporters afterward to elaborate on the sidewalk plan: The emphasis is on arterials in urban villages, followed by arterials on other transit routes. Here’s a city memo she provided post-meeting outlining the resolution and the resulting awareness campaign:

Street-use inspectors will be out checking on sidewalks in those priority areas, said SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe. They will notify people “who aren’t taking their responsibility seriously” – if a notification doesn’t get action, a citation can follow; Herbold said potential fines range from $50 for residential violations to $250 for commercial property (the former is a reduction, also outlined in the memo above).

Sidewalks aside, Zimbabwe also said the winter-response plan has been updated. For plowing, buses’ snow routes, emergency access, schools are priorities. Protected bike lanes will get snow-clearing attention too. But whatever your vehicle, “Don’t drive if you don’t have to during a snowstorm. … Pay attention to road-closure signs.” He mentioned the SDOT map (PDF) showing which routes will be prioritized for plowing. “We haven’t radically changed the level of plowing that we’re going to do.” What they did last year regarding plowing seemed to go fairly well, he said. The current plan – subject to change as the forecast evolves – is that snow-focused staff will start deploying Sunday evening; “equipment is ready – salt, plows.”

Since the city has 35 snowplows to cover its 70 million square feet, Mayor Durkan counseled patience: “Don’t expect your neighborhood will be plowed immediately.”

“Stay informed” was the advice from Emergency Management director Barb Graff. She also pitched and Smart 911, and reiterated getting supplies “that you might need … Go ahead and do your shopping now.” Snow is charming “for the first eighth of an inch,” she observed … after that, not so much.

The mayor also vowed that they’d be able to bring unsheltered people inside. “We will open cold-weather shelters and have more capacity.” Human Services Department director Jason Johnson elaborated: “Every winter we extend capacity of shelter capability – 85 additional beds,” and they plan to open 100 more beds at Seattle Center starting Sunday night. That’s an overnight-only shelter, he added, but the Armory will also be open during the day for people to stay out of the cold.

Regarding transit, Metro deputy general manager Terry White advised people to check early to get briefed on “what services are available in your area.”

He promised, “We’re ready regardless of whatever Mother Nature (brings)” – communication consolidation is what they’ve been working on.

In closing, “Government is only part of the equation,” said the mayor. As for that patience she advised – apply it to forecasters too: “Half the time they predict it, it doesn’t come.”

25 Replies to "VIDEO: In case of snow, 'We want to make sure we're ready as a city,' says mayor @ media briefing"

  • Kera January 9, 2020 (7:03 pm)

    Thank you for doing the video that’s included the American Sign Language!!  

  • BJG January 10, 2020 (12:24 am)

    For years the snowy sidewalks around my neighborhood have gone uncleared except for my 40 feet. My mom said it was the law and I believed her. Now suddenly we have inspections and fines? What just happened? I bet there isn’t a handful of snow shovels in several blocks around me. How about a little nudge, education, and warning before more expensive tickets?  That’s so Seattle!

    • WTF January 10, 2020 (5:57 am)

      You honestly think they’re going to come through neighborhoods and ticket houses during a snowstorm?! Get real. It’s a scare tactic because 911 and city offices were called by idiots complaining their neighbor didn’t shovel their sidewalks. Common sense to some of us; not to most.They will, however ticket (probably in absentia) businesses and multi family buildings that don’t keep sidewalks clear.

    • sigh January 10, 2020 (8:06 am)

      BJG–I’m going to try to clear up a couple things. 
      1) Your mom was absolutely right, and it was good you believed her. 
      2) The inspections and fines are not new, and are not sudden. 
      3) When you request a little nudge and education and warning…..  WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS IS?  This entire campaign is the nudge and education you are lamenting not having! 
      4)  As for “more expensive tickets,” did you read the article?  The tickets for homeowners are now LESS EXPENSIVE. 

      You’ve gotten so many things perfectly backwards… Anyway, hope this clears it up some.

  • uncle loco January 10, 2020 (7:29 am)

    I have no problem with clearing the snow in front of my place or the neighbors that want help. I find it odd that we face a potential fine for not doing so though. From my experience of walking around the city, the last thing I’m worried about stepping on is snow.

    • tsurly January 10, 2020 (9:18 am)

      The problem this that stepping on snow compacts and generates enough heat (due to friction) to partially melt it, where it later refreezes and become ice. Better to clear it.

  • JayDee January 10, 2020 (8:41 am)

    From a legal perspective I was advised by a lawyer that if you shovel your sidewalk, and snow near the sidewalk melts and refreezes on the sidewalk that you can be held liable for any injuries.  This is because you’ve changed the natural conditions and are responsible for what happens because of it. This is rich coming from a city that doesn’t plow the majority of the streets and a county who’s mass transit is essentially paralyzed by 3 inches of snow.

    • Jon Wright January 10, 2020 (10:12 am)

      What did this attorney say about legal liability for injuries that happen on an unshoveled sidewalk?

    • lazybutt January 10, 2020 (10:15 am)

      Guess we’ll need to shovel and salt as well. 

    • CAM January 10, 2020 (10:34 am)

      That was not such a good lawyer if they didn’t also advise you that you are liable if someone injures themselves due to the sidewalk conditions abutting your property NO MATTER WHAT. Buy some salt or ice melt. After you shovel throw it down. Then do so every couple hours if it remains below freezing as it tends to get scattered and lose effectiveness. Luckily that’s quite rare in Seattle so it’s unlikely you’d have to do it more than once. 

      • Wanda January 10, 2020 (4:49 pm)

        @CAM- do YOU do all this? With all the lifestyle guidance you give on the blog, I don’t see how you have the time. 

        • CAM January 10, 2020 (7:10 pm)

          Sure Wanda, I shovel. In fact I’ve lived places where I had to shovel every day for the entire winter and did so. Because that’s what you do when it snows. You put down the other things that you can and you do the things that are necessary to do to be a good neighbor. I’m not offering lifestyle advice. Respecting the laws and your community isn’t a lifestyle choice. 

  • BJG January 10, 2020 (9:39 am)

    SIGH: Nope. Not backwards at all. Still doing my part in my seventies, and have been in  West Seattle all my life.  I always  get out the shovel and move snow.  I’m not afraid of a fine. I’m worried about my neighbors’ falls. We have an older population here…and new, uninitiated residents from elsewhere. Just looking for a little grace.  Don’t be so judgmental.

    • SIGH January 10, 2020 (11:33 am)

      I mean, it was kind of backwards because you got all indignant that they weren’t giving warning when this entire article and the city press releases and the video campaign were all explicitly designed to give warning.

      Also it was kind of backwards when you talked about the tickets getting more expensive when they have in fact just gotten less expensive.  

      And as for me being judgmental, there really isn’t any judgment here, these are just the facts of the situation.

      I’m pleased as punch that you work on clearing out your snow–it’s a rare and virtuous act, and I really appreciate it.  But as for your complaints in your previous post, they just seemed seriously misplaced.

    • Gladimoved January 10, 2020 (1:32 pm)

      What if you’re not home during the snow days on vacation? Can you just put a sign out that says ‘It snowed. Watch your step, be smart and be careful’? This city is unbelievable, what if I slip and hurt myself on a city street, can I sue the city? Does the city pay a fine? Nope. And btw, you’re all being judgemental. 

  • KM January 10, 2020 (11:52 am)

    BJG, responding your points one by one with facts is not judgment. Thanks for shoveling!

  • newnative January 10, 2020 (12:20 pm)

    The thing that bothers me are the islands of ice or snow where one business has cleared, swept and spread de-icer and others have not. You start to walk down the sidewalk and then slip or get stuck. Bus stops were bad last year as well. 

  • Gladimoved January 10, 2020 (2:31 pm)

    WSB that’s a great article for streets, but it’s pretty vague for individual homeowners and their sidewalks. Even the article said it’s not specific for each area. 

    • WSB January 10, 2020 (3:03 pm)

      There are multiple mentions of “walkways” and “right of way” (which includes the sidewalk) even just up to the letter “C.”

  • dftl January 10, 2020 (5:00 pm)

    Seattle, where sidewalk snow & straws are bad, but IV drug use & homeless feces are OK.

  • Mj January 10, 2020 (5:52 pm)

    Last year was a disaster with people and businesses failing to shovel their sidewalks.  I hope people and businesses head the warning to do their part if it indead snows, and if they do not I hope the code enforcers do their jobs vigourously.

  • Vic L January 11, 2020 (3:16 pm)

    I was late to shovel my sidewalk last year which made it so much harder to do once it compacted and froze solid. Shovel ASAP! If you’re going to do it for anyone, do it for the USPS carriers that have to use these sidewalks for their jobs. Yes, my mail carrier still came to my unplowed, mostly un-shoveled block (near High Point) most of the snowy days we had last February, with chains on their mail trucks :)

  • M January 12, 2020 (6:38 pm)

    WSB – is it possible to capture the full ASL interpreter on camera as well for new conference? The camera positioning cut off about half, making it hard to understand. Thank you for the Closed Captioning on the video!

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