Seattle preparing for next snowstorm

Dec 14, 2010

You may be drying out from the weekend rain storms. But city officials in Seattle are thinking about snow.  They’re learning lessons from the snowstorm in November that turned roads into ice rinks and made for paralyzing commutes.

Before the last snowfall, the city was quite proud of its plans to lay down salt on the roads to prevent ice from forming. Transportation officials even held a news conference to show off their de-icing solution and explain exactly how it was going to be used. But, as with many a battle plan, once the snow hit, things went awry.  There was more snow than expected, the salt on the roads got diluted and didn’t work. Streets were slicker than ever.

The city went back to the drawing board and officials have come up with a number of things for next time, including using a different type of salt, magnesium chloride. 

Mayor Mike McGinn told reporters on Monday that the new salt will be more effective because it's supposed to work at lower temperatures. The city also plans to install more cameras on streets to send back real time information to emergency operations centers.

Operations were hindered during the last storm because there weren't any cameras on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was a major trouble spot. 

McGinn says the city also plans to more aggressively close streets before cars start sliding down them, coordinate better with Metro Transit and the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT).  And, he says, in the future the city will consider asking employers to send workers home early before storm hits.