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s-NOOOOOOOO-w!

Posted by gck Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“It never snows in Seattle.”

Or so everyone here likes to say. Realistically, the central areas average around 5-8” of snow each year. But it’s generally not a problem because only a little will fall at a time, it usually won’t stick to the roads at all, and if it does, the temperatures rise in a few hours and it all melts away.

Except for when that isn’t the case. And I’ve found that it’s quite often linked to when I need to be on a plane.

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[November 2010 – Staring bleakly at snow, waiting to take off]

Some historical examples:
1. Thanksgiving 2006 – I’m heading back from London. I was happy that I booked a flight through Vancouver because “it shouldn’t snow there.” Unfortunately, it did in Seattle and flights were cancelled for a few days so I got to spend a night in YVR and ended up taking a bus back the next morning.
2. Christmas 2008 – I’m about to head out to Taiwan and snow dumps all over the place. I survive a horrible highway drive with people spinning out right in front of me. I make it all the way to my street, but I lose speed as I try to avoid killing the idiot kids who are sledding on the road. Can’t get up the hill. Car ends up parked along the side of the road. There’s a small window of peace and my flight makes it out, which is good because the city got more snow and turned into a brick of ice for the next week or so.
3. Thanksgiving 2010 – Mike and I are heading to London via Iceland. It starts to snow that day. We head out early and take public transportation to the airport. Unfortunately, by the time we’re on the plane, it starts really dumping snow. They spray orange crap all over the plane, then say that they’re waiting for the de-icer to arrive at the airport (?!) and we end up delayed a few hours. Well, I got to spend some time in Iceland.

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[left: 1/17/12. right: 1/18/12.]

4. MLK Weekend 2012. Mike and I are heading back to Los Angeles. It has already snowed over the weekend in Seattle and we are happy to have missed it. Except it’s not over. It dumps more snow the morning we’re supposed to fly back. No airport delays and public transportation is okay, just a little slow, but it picks up while we are getting back to our cars. I see that everyone else is leaving work so I do the same. Roads are okay, but my car gets stuck in my snow-and-ice-covered parking lot and I have to enlist the help of three neighbors to shovel so I can get into a parking spot. More fell today, and we’re still getting light accumulation through the day. It’s looking like about 5” of accumulation on my deck, which is significant when you remember what the yearly average is.

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Why is snow in Seattle such a big freaking deal?

It’s funny, each time this happens, my Facebook friends list instantly turns into a stream of snow pictures and remarks about “Snowcopalypse” and “Snowmageddon.” Snow is a big deal here because of a combination of factors: steep hills, lack of resources to deal with it (because it isn’t a common occurrence), and people who don’t know how to drive.

The snow response has gotten better – for one thing, after the 2008 storms, the mayor finally gave in and changed the policy that formerly prevented the use of salt on roads. (Yes, they used to just run around dumping sand all over the place) But it’s still not enough. I saw plows go by my road twice yesterday, but they haven’t gone by yet today because they’re still clearing the major streets after the day’s snowfall. I just saw two Puget Sound Energy trucks go by, though. Outside of Seattle proper, most power lines in this area are above ground. There are a lot of trees. Wind and snow make them fall down. They tend to fall on power lines. People lose power. You get the idea.

Now for the drivers… this video from a snowstorm a few years back circulated heavily but perfectly illustrates what happens when you have icy conditions and bad drivers. It’s from Portland, but it’s the same idea.

It can get pretty scary, though. A few years ago, there was a bad bus accident on Capitol Hill that resulted in one charter bus hanging over a very busy segment of I-5.

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But I guess it’s easier to look at the humorous side. A video on Seattle driving from this round of snow:

P.S. My next big trip is in February, so be prepared if you're in the Seattle area...

2 comments

  1. Oooh yes, we all read about it, and how people couldnt even work for a while. Bad snow, I read.
    How did you cope with it? :)

     
  2. gck Says:
  3. Bad for Seattle. Other parts of the country scoffed at the snow we got. I was okay, just didn't drive anywhere for about 5 days. Some people lost electricity for awhile, though, and that was bad because it was pretty cold.

     

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