(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 alert.seattle.gov 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 metrowinter.com 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.”
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