Snow showers Seattle; city surrenders

Belmont Ave from Union St
Belmont Avenue from Union Street, December 18, 2008.

When I moved from Pittsburgh to Seattle in mid-2006, Seattleites told me not to worry about snow since Seattle never gets any. They were half-right: Seattle does get snow, but nobody worries about it. Seattle has had snow for the last two weeks and only 40-degree temperatures can stop it from paralyzing this city.

Seattle's Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Commissioner Ron Sims must believe firmly that we never get snow. How else would you explain that Metro buses have been running at 50% of capacity, often 1-2 hours late, during the peak shopping and travel season of the year? I'm just glad that Sims has been posting updates using Twitter since Metro's own web site was forced off-line earlier in the snow crisis due to excessive traffic.

What really frustrates me about Seattle's snow response is that we could plow and salt, but the city actively avoids salting the roads. Despite uncountable accidents and closures, despite the fact that buses are crashing over highway retaining walls, despite emergency vehicles not getting where they need to be, we avoid salt. Why? The salmon might not spawn next summer if the salt runs off into their water routes. There's no evidence for this, and downtown Seattle isn't exactly a hotbed for salmon spawning activity, but this city has been so paralyzed that there hasn't been any time for rational thought.

I wrote to County Executive Sims asking whether King County would start using salt on roads. He responded that "[o]ther jurisdictions in King County are using salt and/or deicer." He's not responsible for Seattle proper.

Greg Nickels really summed up the willful ignorance of his city's attitude on weather. When asked how Seattle responded to snow, he said, "I would give our response so far a 'B.'" Come on. Even FEMA isn't that bad.