Local Wonder | KUOW News and Information

Local Wonder

Local Wonder solicits questions from our community and then listeners vote on the question that they want KUOW to cover. Reporters will investigate the story and present it on air and online. Local Wonder is guided by listeners and their curiosity about Seattle, our region and the people who live here. What do you wonder about Seattle, the Puget Sound region or its people?

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Do you ever come across an item — bottle caps, Styrofoam — you’re not sure you can recycle? Or did you read the story about China no longer accepting our recyclables and panic?

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Seconds before last week's 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico City, people got an alert that the ground was about to start shaking. The Sistema de Alerta Sismica Mexicano, or SASMEX, gives people a chance to get under a desk or leave a building before the shaking begins. 

Growth makes driving Seattle streets crazy - in front of schools, on narrow streets in old neighborhoods, and 59th St. and 22nd Ave NW  where this crazy thing went down. Our audience's question, by a landslide: where are the stop signs to restore order?
KUOW/Megan Farmer

As traffic has worsened in the Seattle area, drivers have taken to side streets to beat the brake lights.

This prompted one of our most popular Local Wonder questions: Why doesn’t Seattle have more stop signs?


Are Seattle drivers really so terrible?

Sep 6, 2017
If we're terrible drivers, so is everyone else, because there's little difference between driver behavior across regions.
Flickr Photo/Susan Murtaugh (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7rdUUW

If there’s one thing Seattleites want to know, it’s this: Why is everyone else such a terrible driver?

Fireflies are found in Washington but they aren't like these pictured here. The fireflies in Washington don't flash.
Flickr Photo/tsaiian/(CC BY-NC 2.0)https://flic.kr/p/rnQeE7

"Where are all the mosquitos and fireflies?" 

KUOW listener Tom Miller, originally from Minnesota, had that question for our Local Wonder team. 

University of Washington entomology professor Patrick Tobin came into the studio to answer that question. He spoke with host Bill Radke on The Record.

David Williams, a 20-year full-time resident of Orcas Island, sorts through garbage and recycling in the back of his truck on Sunday, July 30, 2017, on the tipping floor of the Orcas Island Transfer Station on Orcas Island. KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

When writer Knute Berger was a kid in the 1960s, vacationing on Shaw Island, his family had a creative way of dumping some of their trash.

Seventeen thousand years ago, a massive glacier the height of five Space Needles covered what is now Seattle and a large part of western Washington.
Courtesy of the Burke Museum

Seattle was carved by ice.

Businesswoman Mary Keller Wynn came up with the Natte Latte coffee stand in 1999, which launched the Pacific Northwest's propensity for sexy espresso stands.
Courtesy of Mary Keller Wynn

Are bikini baristas a Pacific Northwest phenomenon?

Jake Koukel from Puyallup asked KUOW’s Local Wonder team to investigate.

Ivy grows rampant in Seattle, where roughly 10 percent of public land is infested with the plant.
King County

Ivy is perfectly picturesque when growing in the English countryside or climbing the hallowed walls of Cambridge.

But here in the Pacific Northwest, ivy is a bully. A tree-killing, rat-infested, bird-poop-traveling bully.

Bella, a pot belly pig from Seattle, gets a weekly manicure. She used to get bubble baths, but she's become too heavy for her own to lift into the tub, so she settles for showers.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Louren Reed first saw the sign at Eckstein Middle School in north Seattle: “No dogs, cats, or pot bellied pigs.”

Joni Balter and Cathy Allen.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Why hasn’t Seattle had a woman mayor since 1928, when Bertha K. Landes was in office?

(Her slogan: Municipal Housecleaning.)

A biker on the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Flickr Photo/King County Parks Your Big Backyard (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/TEXi8A

If you live in Seattle and own a bike, you’re probably acquainted with the Burke-Gilman trail. But are you acquainted with Burke and Gilman?

Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, right, and his wife Melinda listen to the speech of France's President Francois Hollande, prior to being awarded of the Legion of Honour at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Friday, April 21, 2017. Philant
AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, Pool

Seattle has a rich history of big giving that goes back to the middle of the last century. As a communications officer at the Gates Foundation, Local Wonder listener Anne Martens knows a lot about philanthropy but she wanted to know more about the role giving has played in Seattle's past. We sent KUOW's Marcie Sillman to report the story.

This image is a close up of the standing timber on the south end of Mercer Island.  The image is generated using a side scan sonar towed behind a boat about 20 feet off the bottom. The trees are visible mostly from the shadows they cast.
Courtesy of Ben Griner of Coastal Sensing & Survey

At the southern end of Lake Sammamish, just off Greenwood Point, several jagged, gray logs stick up from the water. They’re the only visible sign of an ancient, perfectly-preserved underwater forest that’s been sitting at the bottom of the lake for over a thousand years.

Jewish children protest the so-called Muslim travel ban at Sea-Tac International Airport.
KUOW File Photo/Liz Jones

Airports were in chaos in January, hours after President Trump issued an executive order barring people from seven Muslim countries. 

Skiers in the Methow Valley, which gets almost as much sun as Las Vegas or Phoenix.
Courtesy of Brian de Place

This winter was one of the rainiest winters on record in Seattle. That got KUOW listener Tom Donnelly wondering, “How far from Seattle would you have to travel to get a full day of sunshine?"

We too were desperate to know.


FLICKR PHOTO/Ed Suominen(CC BY-NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hTZt4V

Jeannie Yandel speaks with KUOW's Morning Edition host Emily Fox about a question she is trying to answer as part of our Local Wonder series. The question was posted by listener Tom Donnelly. He asked, "How far and in what direction do you have to travel away from Seattle to get a full day of sunshine?" Yandel also speaks with State Climatologist Nick Bond about where to find sunshine in the state.

A 1960s sign from an old flophouse in Pioneer Square in Seattle.
Flickr/Matthew Klein (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4PF4Bn

It’s not an easy time to find an apartment in Seattle. You’d be hard pressed to find a one-bedroom on Capitol Hill for less than $1,400 per month — and rents for similarly-sized apartments in swanky new buildings regularly soar upward of $3,000.

columbia center gif
Courtesy of ESI Design

Capitol Hill resident Steven Sieden can see the Columbia Center from his bedroom window. The 76-story building is like a monolith, dominating his view.

Late one night a while back, he noticed it “sending out messages.”

Mitch, a worker for a marijuana farm in Skagit Valley in 2013. The farm doesn’t exist anymore.
Daniel Berman

We followed the money trail from one bag of weed. 

On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders were officially welcomed back to their home field for the first time after winning the championship last year.

The team may play under one championship banner now, but when they stand for the national anthem many players face a flag that is not their own.


Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier, circa 1920s, probably when more people said Warshington.
Flickr/Seattle Municipal Archives https://flic.kr/p/cydqbs (CC BY 2.0)

We’re a quirky bunch out here in Washington state. We eat cream cheese on our hotdogs. The western part of the state freaks out when it snows. We don’t pay income tax.

A construction crane at the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Kiewic (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/MLM8np

Yellow and orange cranes loom over Seattle’s landscape like an army of gentle dinosaurs.  

The bridge at Deception Pass, between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Islands. It got its name from Captain George Vancouver, who felt deceived by the width of the waterway.
Flickr Photo/gemteck1 https://flic.kr/p/6aoQAH (CC BY 2.0)

Anyone who has road-tripped around Washington state might have noticed a depressing trend: Cape Disappointment. Point No Point. Deception Pass. Foulweather Bluff. Useless Bay. Point Defiance. Obstruction Island. Massacre Bay. Destruction Island. Dismal Nitch.

Violet and Norward Brooks in front of a house they struggled to buy due to discrimination.
KUOW Photo/Caroline Chamberlain

The results of the recent presidential election has revealed stark divisions in this country.

This is especially clear in Seattle, where we’re notorious for being one of the most progressive cities in the country.


A Seattle tour map from 1965, two years after the U.S. Postal Service introduced ZIP codes. The ZIP codes were based on mail flow at that time.
Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives: https://flic.kr/p/8k5eCd

If you’ve ever had a reason to look up Seattle’s ZIP codes — and yes, being bored at work is a valid reason — you might have noticed some super-tiny codes downtown.

The pink bacteria clinging to this Seattle bathmat is Serratia marcescens, which loves damp, soapy environments. It's mostly harmless.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

You see them when you slack on cleaning — mysterious pink rings and streaks that form in your toilets, sinks and bathtubs.

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As a general contractor who does small house remodels in Seattle, Chris Spott knows how to get rid of a pickup truck load of dirt. 

The King County ballot has a stub at the top you must tear off.
KUOW Photo/Jim Gates

Voting is hard. Your ballot is packed with decisions – some tougher than others. You have to parse the wonk, find the right-colored pen and sweat over whether you actually need a postage stamp.

For King and Snohomish county voters, there’s one more step: You’re asked to tear a stub off the top of your ballot before placing it in the security envelope. Or else … what?

Flickr Photo/Javacolleen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seattle has a rat problem. Rat sightings in Seattle are double the national average. Population growth is part of the problem; so is the weather.

That’s meant good business for Adam Truitt, owner of Pest Fighter.

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