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A car travels through a mixture of snow and rain on Northwest 50th Street on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, in Seattle.
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A car travels through a mixture of snow and rain on Northwest 50th Street on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Megan Farmer

Seattle prepares as snow potential looms over the weekend

The Seattle area is gearing up for frigid temperatures and the possibility of snow over the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will dip into the 20s on Sunday. That could bring snow to the area over the evening and into next week.

City officials said they don’t know exactly what level of snowy weather will hit Seattle, but they’re urging people to be prepared.

“We want to make sure we’re ready as a city,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Should snow strike the region, the city has plans in place and a few reminders for residents:

  • The city has stocked salt for icy roads, and has readied plows if needed.
  • The city will prioritize clearing the busiest arterials, not side streets.
  • Seattle will work with King County Metro to make sure snow routes for buses are synced up with plow routes. Riders can go to MetroWinter.com for information about bus routes.
  • It’s the responsibility of property owners or occupants to clear adjacent sidewalks. If people don’t clear the sidewalks and curb ramps next to their homes and businesses, they may receive a warning or a fine.

Be prepared for snow

Durkan urged people to check on their neighbors, stock up on supplies, and ensure they have snow shovels and salt at the ready.

All the warnings seem to be working, according to Tom Paik, manager at Tweedy and Popp Hardware in Wallingford.

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Seattle customers bought all the snow shovels and other winter products shortly after forecasts predicted snow over the weekend, Jan. 10, 2020.
Credit: Juan Pablo Chiquiza | KUOW


"People have the bad memory from last February's snow,” Paik said, referring to the record-breaking snowfall the area experienced last year. He said people are trying to prepare this time. “A lot of sales for snow shovels, ice melters and faucet covers."

Durkan and other officials stressed preparedness at a press conference Thursday. They also stressed that it’s the responsibility of property owners or occupants to clear adjacent sidewalks.

“If you see that snow, do your job. And if you can’t, get people to help you,” Durkan said.

Sam Zimbabwe, head of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), said there are roughly 2,400 miles of sidewalks in Seattle and the city depends on the public to do their part.

SDOT clears sidewalks and overpasses that aren’t next to homes and businesses, the rest is up to residents.

“Clearing the sidewalks isn’t just the law, it’s also the right thing to do to make sure that everybody can travel safely during a snow storm, especially people who are blind, disabled or have a harder time getting around,” Zimbabwe said.

Some community members with disabilities were trapped in their homes during last year’s snow storm due to uncleared sidewalks.

If people don’t clear the sidewalks and curb ramps next to their homes and businesses, they may receive a warning. If the issue still isn’t addressed after a warning is issued, they may be fined. Citations start at $50 for a residential property and $250 for a commercial property.

According to a letter sent from SDOT to city council members, inspectors are instructed to emphasize warnings while giving people information about the importance of clearing sidewalks. They’ll be asked to log enforcement activities on a map, and note where sidewalks have been cleared.

When it comes to roads, city leaders say equipment is ready -- the salt is stocked, and they'll have plows ready if snow starts to stick.

"We've worked with hospitals and emergency services to ensure that critical safety routes are cleared first,” Zimbabwe said.

Homelessness and shelters

As the region gears up for low temperatures, officials are also thinking about vulnerable populations living outside.

There are 3,558 people experiencing homelessness and sleeping outside in Seattle on any given night.

The city is asking shelter providers to expand capacity wherever possible, making spaces available in hallways or other areas.

They’re also opening 100 extra emergency shelter beds at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall.

Those beds will be available from 8 p.m. Sunday night through Tuesday night. The shelter may remain open longer depending on the weather.

The extra beds are available overnight only, but people who need somewhere to stay warm during the day can go to the Seattle Center Armory.

Jason Johnson, with Seattle’s Human Services Department, said people can bring their pets and belongings to the shelter.

This story has been updated to reflect a change in the opening time of emergency shelter beds made by the city.