Monday, December 22, 2008

Noon Update and Editorial

Well...it looks like more snow is on the way. I just got a look at the most high resolution forecasts available in our region (the 4-km WRF-GFS if you like to impress your friends!) and a collection of other forecast models used to give some idea of forecast uncertainty. As this point they are suggesting that another batch of snow will began in the early morning hours Wednesday, snow through 9-10 AM, turn to rain, and then turn back to snow later in the afternoon. This would be a slushy mess.

Right now, temperatures are getting above freezing...making things nice and slippery. Did you know that the colder ice is the less slippery it is? When ice is below freezing, there still is a layer of liquid water on its surface...that is why it is slippery. The colder it is, the thinner that liquid layer is and thus the ice becomes less slippery...particularly as the temperature drops below 25F.

Editorial

Seattle is really not ready for snow! You would think that instead of reducing the number of buses radically as they have done, they would reprogrammed cancelled routes using the buses for the streets they have cleared. No way. There appear to be less buses on key arterial routes. I have given "Snow Talks" at Sea-tac Airport for years and the staff there always brags they have more snow removal equipment than the entire city. I can believe it. The City claims they have 25-30 vehicles with plows. Well, if they do, it is certainly not enough...and major routes (such as Sand Point Way in NE Seattle) are completely unattended. It is true that having extra plows for city trucks are not free and that snow events like this are unusual. But the economic loss of allowing the city to be crippled by such modest snows is substantial...and major decisions (like the cancellation of schools last Wednesday when no snow fell) are made in the context of such poor snow removal. Buses are important when cars have problems and the bustracking web site of Metro should a key tool. Unfortunately, they didn't size their server well...so it was completely overwhelmed this morning. And they hide the bustracking software on their web site as well. Last week I was in NY and they had a minor snowstorm. Plows were everywhere almost immediately...including secondary and tertiary roads. Certainly, we can do better. Global warming will not be the answer to this problem...at least not for 50 years.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have the utmost respect for you, but that's a pretty big can of political worms to open on a site with this disclaimer: "Please no global warming and political comments...that is not what this site is about."

Anonymous said...

They seem to have fewer County plows out here in Kitsap, but the state routes are clear. A plow did come up our steep road late last night finally and made a fair mess at the end of my driveway, significantly tearing up the gravel. This is ironically the only spot with traction as there was no sanding elsewhere. The road is now even hard to walk on.

Snow is melting off the trees and one occasionally hears branches finally snapping. The power over here was unsteady all night. The sun makes it all pretty and the birds are all out.

Tonight will be interesting when all of this refreezes

Scott K said...

Thank you for the update.

Any comment on a possible convergence zone over the usual snohomish county areas for Wednesday or is it too early to tell?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your editorial, but this view is leading to a lot of backlash (on other sites) from people who think it's just a bunch of transplants complaining.

I moved here 22 years ago, and I'm still amused by how Seattle deals with snow, but I've also come to accept it as part of life here. It is debatable whether a lot of money should go into snow-removal equipment.

I love your blog, but I've detected some defensiveness about getting the windstorm (at least partly) wrong. The fact is that most of the Eastside got very little wind. I'm curious how you and other forecasters conduct your post-mortem in such a case. What do you actually do?

Anonymous said...

I just moved here from the Washington, DC, area, and am shocked at how poorly prepared this area is for snow and winter storms. 10 years ago, DC was justly criticized for its poor performance. Today, while they are not at the level of Buffalo, Boston, or NYC, one can reasonably expect all side streets to have been plowed at least once within 24 hours. Interstate and primary roads would have been in continuous treatment since before the storm began. 30 trucks is what a small town of 20,000 or so would have running around or what might be found in a several block radius, not for the major metropolitan city area.

Anonymous said...

I moved here from Colorado about 18 months ago. It is certainly a radically different response by the city and county than I am used to.
Obviously the cities and counties Colorado must have better snow removal plans than the Seattle region. However, they are not always perfect, and it might be worth noting that more than one Denver mayor (and also at least one in Chicago)have lost elections, partly due to the ire of the voters about poor snow removal plans and execution.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. Regarding Metro: Word. Their weather alert webpage is a mess--many routes are listed as both "adverse weather route" and "operating normally." Useless. And snow is no excuse for that.

Anonymous said...

It is always the same old stuff, Cliff...WSDOT and Metro do not seem to talk to each other. Until the population take up that problem, it will never change. When Metro buys $350,000 EA for artic. busses that will not work in snow, riders will not get picked up. Every truck that Metro buys CAN be equiped for a plow. They just don't.

Laurel said...

And with Gregoire's recent announcement about sweeping budget cuts and not raising taxes, the likelihood of getting reasonable plows and weather equipment seems distant. The people "taking this up" might mean we're all shoveling! Brace yourselves... (hmm, maybe if our streets were on Wall Street we'd get some funds...hmmm).

John said...

My take away from the Metro situation is WHERE ARE THE ALTERNATIVES! Every news cast had interviews with bus riders at bus stops waiting for hours to catch a bus!
Where is the monorail? Where is the regional light rail. Mayor Nickels and the other regional planners have repeatedly supported the buses as a viable mass transit solution for the Seattle Metro area. This past week has borne out the short sightedness of their decision.

Mitch said...

On the matter of tracking Metro buses...the system is not the most current (GPS) but rather operates on a series of goal posts along regular routes. When a bus deviates from its regular route, as is often the case in adverse weather, the AVL location system does not work for that bus. Just thought you might want to know

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous user who posted at the top.

This is Cliff's blog! He can say what the heck he wants! It is not up to you to determine who or what Cliff can talk about. If you don't like what you read here, then go watch the weather channel lol

Anonymous said...

hmmm, our snowstorms are so rare, do we really want to spend money on snowplows? My hunch is that it wouldn't be worth it in dollars and cents. And there must be a reason why bus service is so scarce on major arterials. But yes, it's frustrating to have our whole world shut down. But still, this is just a fluke, don't you think? Not a good enough reason to throw a bunch of money at it.

Mountain Weather said...

I think Cliff is right on with his comments on how this area deals with snow, the minimal snow removal that is done. Yes we do not get much snow that often but you would think that we can do a better job of staying on top of keeping the main roads clear. I do not think this is a political statement but this is just stating the facts as I have lived here since 1976 and have seen little changes on how snow removal is done.

k said...

I think that one of the main reasons Metro cut their service is because they couldn't use the articulated buses, which they have a lot of.

Also, I guess you have to ask yourself whether it is worth it to you, as a tax payer, to pay for a bunch of snow removal equipment that will be needed only once every 10 to 20 years. It's a cost/benefit analysis and the city's decision makes a lot of sense to me.

I do agree it makes for a tough week.

Script Maven said...

I moved here in 1989 after 3 years in NYC, and every year I hear people gripe about how comically unprepared Seattle is for the snow.

Consider that Seattle is one of the least densely populated major metropolitan areas in the country and therefore lacks the tax base to support a regular budget line for snow removal. Unless the weather can be reliably assumed to cause more than one or two weeks of hassle per year, there won't be enough political will to add it to the budget.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the lack of snow removal equiptment - Voters in this state have tied the hands of government by insisting on a limiting overall property tax increases to 1%. This is problematic when inflation is over 1% (always), this has the effect of slowly starving government of the resources it needs to provide us with the services we demand. Snow removal costs money, that money comes from taxes, so pony up or shut up.

JewelyaZ said...

Snow removal here (Bellevue) does seem pretty minimal after growing up in northern New Jersey where it's taken a bit more seriously. Crossroads Mall hasn't even plowed their parking lots three days before Christmas!

On the other hand, we've had snow and ice at this level exactly once in the ten years I've lived here that I can recall. If this is a 10-year event, I can't see spending a ton more money to address the problem... slow down and live a slightly more relaxed life, help your neighbors, walk somewhere, and chill out (literally). I'd rather that they spend millions building the trains that we all need all the time than buying plows and sanding machines that we use a couple of times a season for a few days.

I second that this is Cliff's blog and he can say whatever the hell he pleases, even if he asks us to rein ourselves in on certain topics so it doesn't spin wildly off-topic. We can like it or lump it... :-)

It does seem that most windstorms turn out to be less dramatic than forecasted but I'm fine with that... Ultimately it just seems really hard to tell which of the thousands of factors in each microclimate are going to line up to give us a big wind event everywhere, a big event in some places but not others, or a bust everywhere. It's always going to be a prediction, not a guarantee.

Oh, and Metro does need to get their bus act together. It seems like they could chain up more of the short and regular buses and get them out there moving people on the arterials. Perhaps they need a system-wide coordinated snow strategy that would move people along the main routes... give them S numbers so that everyone is aware that things are Special for the Snow.

We've just been walking everywhere for the most part and I consider it great practice for the day when gas is $10 a gallon.

Script Maven said...

Specifics about population density:

Seattle: 2,593.5/km²

Manhattan: 25,846/km²

We are 0.1 the density of Manhattan and about a fifth that of Brooklyn.

In terms of Metro area, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue is very close in population and latitude to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Minneapolis has a density similar to ours, 2691/km², but of course they have 6 months of winter to cope with each year.

gshall said...

I've lived in the northwest since 1968, mostly in Seattle, and Cliff's comments are exactly right. I lived on Capitol Hill and worked both in the U District and downtown, and there were NEVER any buses in bad weather, even using the so-called snow routes. This has been true for 40 years, and I am scarcely a recent transplant.

I'm now out of the city, and simply stocked up. Snowed in but good.

Anonymous said...

I love EVERY word of your editorial. Oh yeah, and you're forecasting is the BEST in the area.
Everyone I know only listens to you any more!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 5th generation Northwesterner. More spending on Snow plows, Coastal Radars, environmental problems and less on things like unnecessary wars seems like the proper way to go. Too late now with our huge deficits and debt!

Seems that rolling back the car tabs (especially for recreational vehicles) by Tim Eyman's ballot measure early this decade is probably more responsible for the road situation, than anything else. We get what we didn't pay for. Thus the Viaduct, ailing ferries, and lack of snow plowage.

Tom said...

It's always the same thing when we get snow here. But this time I noticed that Metro's snow routes didn't mean anything at all!

Carmel said...

Driving through a very icey and slippery Montlake and Sand Point way this morning, I was thinking why aren't these roads plowed and sanded better here compared to several of the other Seattle roadways? These are the thoroughfare to 2 major hospitals (UW and Children's), you would think the city of Seattle would at least be paying more mind to vehicle routes that are frequented by emergency vehicles.

Anna said...

Just wanted to point out that the chained short Metro buses are also getting stuck in this. My family calls them "beached whales." There was one on NE 50th for a while last night.

I agree with you, Cliff -- the city is not prepared for snow. From a UW grad student's perspective, it's really frustrating when Metro gives UW administrators the impression that they can handle trips into and out of the University District during snow, the UW stays open, and then it takes 2 hours to get there from Wallingford because I've been passed by countless full 44s that aren't picking up any more passengers. The city needs to be more prepared for snow, and Metro needs to accurately assess whether or not it can truly transport passengers. They're really trying to communicate with passengers, and the effort is nice.

What do you suggest that the city, employers, and local universities do to avoid this mess next time? We're not going to get more plows anytime soon.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is a rare event, spend all that money on a new fleet of plows? Stay at home and enjoy the time off. Do you really need to be anywhere. I'm happy to submit to mother nature for a few days, though I wish I had stocked up on more booze.

Imaflatlander said...

I believe that all who read this blog do so because we either like the subject matter or want to know what is coming next in terms of weather, maybe both. I hope that Cliff will make clear to us what subject matters and opinions he thinks appropriate and that we will all respect that. I'd be sad to see this become a blog of venting. Cliff?

Natchrl8r said...

I heartily agree with the snowplow editorial as it applies to Bellingham. I was thinking the same thing as I was spinning through slush piles on a Major arterial and in the Mall parking lots. This has to effect the income of local businesses. Where I grew up in New Jersey the plows were out scraping and sanding through the storms. Leaving a 3 day accumulation would never happen with such small daily amounts. I thought we learned our lesson in the 90's when the city sold all their plows and the following year we had drifts up to 3 feet on city streets! What year was that?

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said...

All,
Weather related comments are welcome. Many of you (including myself) was just getting tired of the "its cold and snowy here and therefore global warming is nonsense" type of comments.

I hope you all will give me the freedom to talk about what I would like in my own blog.

This has become a fairly significant online community and perhaps together we can change some things for the positive...like encourage the coastal weather radar and make our communities more snow "resistant."

..cliff

Anonymous said...

For the record, I never said that Cliff shouldn't say whatever he wants. But if he's going to talk about something as political as this, he should re-think his statement that people can't talk about politics. Because that's what every comment here is. Either we're breaking the terms of service or we aren't. It should be clear, not by whim.

seasc said...

Though I agree that the city can do better, as an old Seattle native I can say that snow has always left us hanging. Forecasts are tricky, and it seems to take only one forecast of snow not to pan out to take people the next time by 'surprise'. My advice? Take the days easy, look around and enjoy the scene. You might not see it again like this for another 15 years- plenty of time to work & shop. Anyway, thanks to Dr. Mass for all the hard work in updating the blog so often and so early in the morning...

Natchrl8r said...

Funny, I just read JeweleyaZ's comment. Sorry to be redundant. (Yo, Jersey!) I'm from Boonton, a small village, and we always had the equipment we needed so not comparing to NYC.

JewelyaZ said...

Born in Livingston, grew up in Morris Plains and then Randolph Township (Ironia)... there's hella good pizza pie in Boonton, or there was when I was a kid thirty years ago! :-)

Cliff, I wrote letters to my senator, Congresscritter, local reps, and Bellevue City Council folks about the coastal radar... and for the heck of it, I copied my letter to Barack Obama... using the information about this weekend's storm as an example of why it's needed. Thanks for educating me enough about the issues to write what I think was a thoughtful and well-informed letter. If more of us write such letters, maybe the money will shake loose. It's really not a lot of money, and the bang for the buck is very high. Let me know (juliaz @ gmail.com) if you want to see the letter to maybe provide as a suggested "template" for others to customize. It's a worthy effort.

Doug Carter said...

I really enjoy your blog, Cliff. I first heard your weather reports on KUOW about a year ago and have been hooked every since. I look forward to reading your book.

I moved here from Oklahoma about 15 years ago, and I've always been surprised about how little weather it takes to incapacitate this city...but I'm not going to rant about that.

I went into Redmond after the first big snow (mostly to test my new 4WD) and quickly realized that every bus was stranded on the side of the road (at least the 10 I saw). I'm asking myself, where are their chains? They knew it was going to snow. I was more shocked by the 40th st. exit from 520 to MS that there was not 1, not 2, but 3 jack-knifed articulated buses at the same time! What the heck is Metro thinking? I hope someone gets fired over that.

Oh well, I'm enjoying the snow. I much prefer this to the depressing grey clouds and psuedo-rain we get for 6 months every year.

Anonymous said...

The airport's claim to have a bigger snow removal fleet than Seattle is not true, but they made the same bogus argument for years - that it doesn't make sense to spend big sums on snow removal because it is so seldom used. However, SeaTac was forced to the conclusion to modernize their fleet from WWII surplus trucks and jeeps only after several massive failures, (including a seldom-seen total closure of the airport) that resulted in a punishing outcry from tenants, passengers, and air carriers. The only solution in Seattle is to apply the same sort of political pressure. Six inches of snow should not cripple an entire metropolitan area ever again.

Anonymous said...

I'm a third generation Seattleite and there has always been a problem with snow removal/number of snow plows as well as Metro and stranded riders. There was enough warning about this latest snow deluge that the City and Metro should have been prepared.

Anonymous said...

Population density is not the key to snow clearing. New Hampshire, for example, has a population density of less than 60 people per square kilometer, and crews there can (and do) clear a 4' storm from the roads in a day. Thing is, a snow plow isn't a quarter-million-dollar vehicle that will only be used once or twice a decade. It's a metal frame that's attached during snowstorms to the existing trucks that each municipality owns and uses year-round. In the Northeast, lots of private citizens with pickups own their own plows and make a decent side income plowing driveways and parking lots.

I've only lived here since 1993 (in Pacific and Lynnwood,) but we've had measurable snow--and several instances of transportation paralysis--in about 9 of those years. Seems to me that the lost tax revenue and the expense of clearing up all the accidents and stuck cars in every major storm would justify the purchase of some basic snow removal equipment.

Sorry to sound so inflammatory, but this is a sore point for me. Lyn in Lynnwood

Jim said...

While I don't live in the Metro area, but rather out in the sticks, it seems a prudent exercise for the Metro management to drill on the basics of handling the WEATHER events that can happen hereabouts. I just can't imagine any of the transit agencies or DOT being much help if we had an "Unpredicted" event like an earthquake with major power outages, broken water systems gushing from the ground, bridges down on top of roadways, etc.

WEATHER events as forecast in this region are much better to deal with than the probable-but-unlikely seismic event! Can you imagine?

That said, with all the dump trucks and backhoes and front loading tractors sitting idle due to the construction depression, why not throw a few bucks to the contractors in the area to move the snow/slush around and to sand the hills? Too much liability? To little planning abilities in the executive's office? Use some imagination folks! Write some purchase orders for renting some shuttles, private busses, whatever to keep the routes moving. And COMMUNICATE honestly! I heard the Metro spokesperson on KUOW say they were prepared and that the routes would be posted online, etc. She sounded SO confident, I would have parked my car and put my transportation in their hands......

When we had the last big ice storm out here, we didn't wait for the County or Power crews. We got out the saws and trucks and tractors and cleared the way so people could get out and go to work and for groceries. We didn't have power for 9 days but we didn't let the WEATHER stop everyone in their tracks.

Just wait until they start the PREDICTED 520 bridge and viaduct projects!

I like my little community :-)

Scott K said...

While I'm sure we all appreciate the talk about the metro bus situation, I understoodthis was a 'weather blog'.

Any more details on the storm for Wednesday? Seems to be fairly important regarding this coming storm since it's so close to Christmas. Travel plans for my family have been tough, and mostly dependent on the snow possibility of Wednesday.

I still wouldn't mind a comment regarding the possibility of a convergence zone. :)

Richard said...

I understand the tradeoffs between investing in more snow equipment and avoiding economic losses, as opposed to spending that money elsewhere and taking a certain amounts of economic hits when these storms occur. The obvious way to start is to analyze costs of increasing snow removal equipment to adequate levels, educating businesses and residents on their obligation to clear sidewalks, and what that'd save in economic losses. Then you can make a better decision.

What upsets me is that Metro and the city know these storms happen, but they are unprepared for it. "Unpublished routes" for Metro buses are unacceptable - tell riders what we can expect and where we can catch buses. The city needs to coordinate with schools and businesses so they know what roads will be plowed and when. And the cities (not just Seattle), WSDOT, Metro and Sound Transit need to have a unified plan and communicate that to the public.

A-Chan said...

Your editorial is absolutely right on. As far as the inadequacy of snow
removal in Seattle goes, I would
go even further: It is a disgrace.
Although 8 inches of snow is unusual,
it is not unprecedented, and it is not that unusual to have smaller amounts of snow followed by a cold
stretch, which also immobilizes the
city. It also seems that practically
every winter, there is a cold period
with the threat of snow; this leads
to all sorts of closings and anxiety.


While some may see the
snow as a welcome diversion and
others may see it as only a minor inconvenience, the city's failure
to deal with snow does lead to some
real suffering. As an example,
take the case of the travelers'
stranded at the Greyhound station
or the tour buses which almost
fell onto the freeway. Another
preventable occurrence---Alaska
Airlines' insufficient supply of
de-icer---led to the chaos at
the airport, stranding some
passengers for days. In my case,
I am scheduled to fly to Chicago
in a few days to visit my mother,
who is dying of cancer. This will
likely be the last time I will see
her alive. Yet because of the
city's nonexistent snow removal,
I may not be able to even make it
to the airport.


Finally, it seems to me that this
issue of snow removal has brought
out an extraordinary display of
meanness among Seattlites. The
more reasonable ones argue that
more snow plows are not "cost-effective", as if this cost would rival
the Defense Department's budget.
Never mind that other medium sized
cities have no problem funding these. And, by the way, even in
"snowy" cities like Chicago, there
are many winters when the city has
way more capacity for snow removal
then it needs. And don't even mention the use of
salt---Seattlites seem to think that this will render the land barren. Believe it or not, they
are able to grow trees in Chicago.
But more disturbing is the attitude: "It's only for a few
days or week or two weeks, so shut
up and deal with it!" Do these
people not understand that, for others, travel may be essential?
And why is there such a provincial
attitude to "outsiders" who point
out that Seattle's way is not
necessarily the best way?


Cliff, could you bring your comments to the attention of
city officials? I've lived here
long enough to know that this
will undoubtedly be a losing battle, but as a "weather expert",
you might have a little more clout.

Anonymous said...

Having lived here for more than 25 years, I feel almost like a native, but I grew up in the midwest. There, in Michigan, huge snowstorms were the stuff of every winter, and thus the plows were out after every storm. It was such a rare event that one couldn't drive. Now that I think of it, even huge snowfalls of two feet or more always were met in the morning by neat, plowed streets.

Having said that, I wouldn't expect Seattle to respond in the same way because the snowstorms here are such rare events. To gather this much snow happens perhaps once or twice a decade. Usually, what snow we do receive is gone quickly. This snow storm coincided pretty nicely with the weekend, and thus it seems that Monday may be a bust . . . but so what? It's the holidays! People ought to be happy that the snow is forcing them to slow down, get some exercise by walking, and to get out in the fresh (nonpolluted for a change) air.

However, I will agree that Metro has been a dismal failure. Leaving hordes of passengers stranded downtown after the first snowfall was disgraceful. The way the packed buses just passed all those freezing bodies made me almost ill. I felt like I was in a third world country. I talked to a friend who was one of the unlucky ones. He said it would have helped if even one driver had stopped and explained to the crowds why the buses were not stopping.

Metro is always packed these days. Trying to get to the UW on a morning from the tunnel is virtually impossible on a sunny day -- the buses are packed. What's up with Metro? Why don't they listen to passenger complaints and address the real problem -- a shortage of buses on the most frequented routes? That the 44 is almost always packed, for instance, is also ridiculous. Run more buses Metro!

YEOMALT STATION said...

Yeomalt Cabin - Bainbridge Island:
Wind - light; 32 degrees; sunny; 4" snow past 24hrs with total 12" on the ground; lost cable internet connection for 24hrs; road conditions are very poor, and have not been able to get car out for 5 days; it was a long, but very pretty walk to get supplies.

Jeff said...

34 degrees in Sammamish after a high of 38.1 @ 12:27pm.

You know.... this has been a really fun blog the last week. Everyone sharing their own snow stories and weather stats. But now that the weather has begun to change a bit we're getting transplants from Chicago crying how much better their city was than Seattle is. Makes you wonder why they ever left paradise to begin with!

Hope it starts snowing again so the friendly folks come back to blogging:)

Anonymous said...

Cliff,

I appreciate your editorial and love the blog, it is the first place I go every morning. I have lived here all my life, it seems we have gotten more inept at handling the snow as the years go by. I was able to go to a place for lunch; the server and cook made it into work, but my relative could not go to the doctor's office two blocks away because the Dr. could not make it to the office. We use the rarity of the event as an excuse for incompetence and laziness. I made it to work every day, as did my son who depends on Metro to take him downtown.

Natchrl8r said...

Jeff, that was a very unkind comment. Cliff is one of those transplants and he opened up this topic in HIS blog. Unless you are ethnically Coast Salish, then YOU are a "recent transplant". This has been a very friendly discourse except for a few unkind interjections.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cliff, for the frequent updates!! And for everyone else, too, adding updates on what they are seeing. Another great resource for road updates has been www.myballard.com, www.myballard.com/traffic. I've lived here since '85 and previously was able to pretty much just stay home from work during snowtimes. Not so this year. So Cliff's updates & everything I can learn about the road conditions have been lifesavers.

Dan Plaster said...

Thanks for the insights to the world of meterologists and keeping things focused on science and not the latest political trend. I see people expecting a lot from science and not understanding the limitations and what probability means. Just proves that more scientific and math instruction is absolutely essential to allowing people to understand issues better and to enable them to think for themselves and use the data that is available.

nickz said...

I agree with what some of the posters said about rolling with the punches and taking the time to slow down - with the rarity of snow here, I don't think it is worthwhile to spend boatloads of money on snow plows.

That said, I think there needs to be some changes in the way agencies plan for this sort of thing. The PhinneyWood Blog had a map of the priority of streets for plowing - why wasn't this publicized more? I couldn't find it on the SDOT site.

How about more realistic snow routes for Metro buses? As Cliff said, better tracking systems? What about making Metro/SDOT the deciding factor on whether schools/public agencies stay open or not? How about issuing a "chains or 4WD only" law in a snow emergency?

It seems to me that this lack of planning does not bode well for a "real" emergency.

Nick

Jeff said...

I think too many people generalize "Seattle" as being where the problem lies. We have the WSDOT, all the county governments, every city large and small, private land owners (Crossroads Mall was mentioned) and then all the unprepared residents and drivers within all those jurisdictions. If you're going to place blame, be sure and spread it fairly and evenly.

I'm not a Coast Salish but I was born in the Ballard Hospital 50 some years ago and have lived here ever since. Growing up in Kirkland, 18 years in North Bend, and all the other years in either Bellevue, Redmond or Sammamish I can't recall any difficult winters. Only fun ones. I make it to work everyday because I'm prepared. I don't rely on public transportation because it's a no brainer they have problems when it snows. I drive a Subaru and have for many years because I know they are a great all year round vehicle that doesn't need a plowed road to get me there.

Sure.... we can all find fault with anything we so desire. But if we don't take it within ourselves to make the best of a weather situation or any other curve we're thrown then there are always places to point fingers.

I love every bit of the PNW and it's weather and wouldn't change living here for any other place in the world!

AJ said...

Downtown Tacoma is turning into an ice rink. Walking is becoming an art form.

As for the lack of snow removal equipment around Puget Sound, I'd suggest telling the Feds that terrorists are hiding in the snow, that would free up Homeland Security dollars right away. Heck, we'd have 75 plow trucks by Friday.

Anonymous said...

If maintaining a fleet of snowplows is such a burden on the city, why not contract out plowing to private parties? I bet there are enough people with the wherewithal and entrepreneurial spirit to make it worth their while.

As for preparation for the snowstorm, both Metro and the City have dropped the ball. Metro with their slow, uninformative and downright contradictory website (to say nothing of the busses) and Seattle for not clearing primary roads (not a single snow plow on 45th St -- what's up w/that???)


The question of whether Seattle can afford to clear every street is secondary to how unprepared they were in handling the adverse weather. What it shows is incompetence and unwillingness to learn from earlier snowstorms.

The question is whether we can achieve even a modicum of accountability. No elected official wants snow-related expenditures in THEIR budget, they'd rather do something else with the money. Who knows, most likely they won't be in office when the NEXT storm hits -- all the fingers will be pointed at the successor at that point anyway...

Gregory Wade said...

If there was real demand for snow removal, there would be a market for one. Average Joe can't be bothered to clear his walk, why expect more from the city? Did you clear yours? Stick to the weather and sit you butt at home, dude.

Anonymous said...

Just joined the blog. Only comment so far is that he gives a realistic look at the weather happening in our area. No TV hype or fanare to get our attention to watch. Thanks Cliff.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was driving across Wallingford to Sandpoint today twice and saw several City rigs with snowplows on them. In each instance none of them actually had their plows down. WTF?

Nikita said...

gregory,

it is the responsibility of the city to provide safe (i.e., clean/clear) roads. that's what it is there for. expecting good samaritans to do somebody else's job is not going get very far.


as for your comment re: market, i do not follow. yes, there is a demand for clearing snow (look at the comments above). without compensation, however, demand by itself isn't going to keep the streets clear. that's what the poster above you is saying.

Anonymous said...

This is the trade off for living in a mild, maritime climate on a hilly topography. When that continental air mass pokes it's head through the mountains, it's bound to get us once in a while. This will pass and it will be back to rain. Enjoy.

JayDee said...

As a Metro rider who was an unwitting contestant in tonight's "Metro Mystery Bus" game show, they do need to list useful information.

The current website offers what seems like information, but which really isn't. Like saying my bus is not traveling the viaduct--great, but why does anecdotal evidence say no buses are coming, and of the few that do make it to the 'hood,some just turn around at the base of the route? And some don't? Even if 1/2 the routes aren't running, why are those that are running only doing so 1/3 of the time?
I understand this was an unusual event, but even so, it was foreseen. Maybe I will feel better after I thaw out.

Anonymous said...

@John 1:42pm.... The other transportation systems aren't guarantees either. Portland's light rail had frozen switches, as does the Amtrak line here in seattle.

What some folks have hinted at though remains true. We aren't going to get solutions without paying for it, and the regressive sales tax as the primary source of revenue just doesn't make sense. That source of funding can't support much more weight. We either have to live without all the services we want, or pony up money to pay for them.

Anonymous said...

Born here: Thank you transplants for helping us figure out how to deal with snow. Transplants rock! And I've lived here all my life. What I see surfacing is mainly the need to improve and expand bus service during snow, figuring out how to get main arterials plowed by having those blade things that you attach to vehicles, and, what other stuff? I think this storm will lead to some efficient, cost-effective improvements at all levels, including dealing with my own driveway issues. Oh, and I'm glad we are allowed to vent about the weather on this blog - it's interesting to find out what people really think.

Scott K said...

Just an FYI to those out driving on I-5. I just drove from Lake Stevens to Tacoma and back again, just got home about 10 minutes ago.

We passed about a dozen spinout/accidents that had either occured 30 minutes prior or had JUST happened. The freeway appears clear, but it is a deception, it is icy in spots you wouldn't expect, especially noting the overpasses.

Please be safe and don't drive unless necessary. If tonight's experience isn't a warning to tomorrow morning's experience, I don't know what is.

The ice is bad!

Philbert said...

I once attended a graduate seminar at the UW on the topic of human responses to natural hazards. The presenter, whose name I cannot recall, spoke mostly about non- structural strategies to minimize the harm from hazards such as floods and hurricanes. When one in the class asked for his recommendation for a sensible response to heavy snowfall, he replied that Seattle's best approach would be to declare a festival. He spoke in the early 1970's, but his words carry wisdom today. Plastic sleds are cheaper than snowplows.

Anonymous said...

Our post office is extraordinarily ready for snow days. Although we lived on quite a hill, our mail was never skipped.

It is an outrage that UW usually doesn't close for snow. They did today, but they often ignore the treacherous conditions and pleas of the overwhelmed and underequipped DOT that people stay off the road, in favor of what? the "pride" of being able to say that they never close? As you said, road conditions may be worse tomorrow than today, the buses still aren't running on anything resembling an ordinary schedule, and UW plans to open tomorrow. It's heartless.

This area definitely doesn't account for snow days.

Jason said...

I've lived here all my life, mostly Seattle and now on the Eastside. Seattle has never been able to handle snow. The often mentioned "last big one" in 1990 was another perfect example. Metro just plain folded.

I agree with you, Cliff, and really enjoy your blog and the information it provides.

This past week will be remembered by everyone who experienced it. Whatta winter!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your editorial, Cliff. As I stood at the bus stop on Aurora above N. 46th. St. on Monday morning, waiting for a southbound Metro bus that wasn't packed to the gills, I observed car after single-occupancy car headed into the city. The moral: don't take the bus after a "weather event". Drive your car! Only I don't own a car, and had to get to work. I walked over to the on-ramp, stuck out my thumb, and a very nice guy named Paul stopped and picked me up and took me downtown to 3rd. Ave.

The weekend's snow was indeed beautiful, but I would love to see some accountability for the road and transit issues raised here.

Patrick said...

New York and Chicago prepare well for 8" snows because they have them several times a year. Seattle has them maybe once a decade. How well do New York and Chicago do during their weather events that only happen once a decade?

I haven't seen Sand Point Way this storm, but I wonder if part of the problem is its status as a state route. I suspect the City expects the State to plow and sand it, while the State tends to forget about this short route. My neighborhood arterials seem to be plowed and sanded, at least a couple of passes within the first 24 hours.

Yes, Metro could do a lot better planning and publicizing their snow routes. Not only the web site, but also the fall and winter printed bus schedules should include snow route information.

A-Chan said...

Patrick, I'll tell you. 1978-9 was a
very cold and snowy winter in Chicago, so cold that the salt no longer melted the snow, so snowy that several feet of snow piled up, culminating in a 20+ inch snowstorm.
I don't think Chicago had experienced anything like this in decades. The city was woefully unprepared, but Chicagoans were unforgiving. 1979 was also an election year and the mayor lost his job, primarily for the failures in snow removal. Since then, every mayor has vowed, "Never again".

AC7SS said...

I am a dispatcher for metro. I agree in the fact that metro is a CF when it comes to snow routing.
we do have a plan, but there is a lack of coorddination between departments.
My base (central) only had 17 busses monday morning, out of about 200.
Most of the routes do only operate on arterialx and snow routes are sopposed to be only on arterials, but we need to turn around somewhere.
S-DOT knows what routes we need too have clear. but the Sodo busway had not been plowed (at all) by 3:30pm monday.
I agree that transit is the best solution in extreme WX for getting around, but some priorities are getting mixxed up.