Seattle area residents should stay home and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. Local authorities urged the public on Saturday afternoon as snow continued to fall in Seattle.
Friday evening and Saturday morning snow covered the region with depths of up to a foot. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport saw 8 inches, according to the Seattle National Weather Service. The snow was expected to wear off later in the afternoon. Everywhere in the city, residents took to the streets on sleds and skis, while city crews plowed streets and emergency officers reported hundreds of service calls.
“Stay safe by staying home,” King County’s executive Dow Constantine said during an afternoon press conference.
Mayor Jenny Durkan urged Seattowners to avoid driving, shovel the sidewalks near their homes and businesses, and check on their neighbors.
Shoveling sidewalks is the responsibility of the neighboring owner. In recent years, people walking or using wheelchairs have requested more thorough cleaning of sidewalks, which otherwise can leave people trapped. City inspectors are checking sidewalks and “contacting” property owners on high-priority routes, said Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
The crews continue to plow and de-ice roads in the area.
Seattle and King County’s crews have been clearing streets in 12-hour shifts around the clock, officials said. City crews are prioritizing areas near emergency services, as well as coronavirus testing and vaccination sites, Zimbabwe said.
Roads with steep hills are closed to traffic – but that doesn’t mean they’re open for tobogganing, Zimbabwe said. “Please look for places outside our streets to enjoy the winter weather. We really want to keep everyone safe, ”said Zimbabwe.
The Washington State Department of Transportation crews are evacuating highways and freeways.
Drivers should be careful even when the roads appear clear, said David McCormick, WSDOT deputy regional administrator. “Don’t be fooled … black ice might be there,” McCormick said. (If you have to drive, carry extra food, clothing, and boots, and make sure your phone is charged, officials said.)
In recent years, Seattle’s snow has proven deadly to those living outside.
Seattle and King County operate four storm shelter. A new 75 adult website opens on Saturday night at Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave.). The county will shut down a site in the county building that operated on Friday night.
The other three 24/7 shelters are located in the Fisher Pavilion (305 Harrison St.) of the Seattle Center, the Garfield Community Center (2323 East Cherry St.), and the Bitter Lake Community Center (13035 Linden Ave. N.).
According to Helen Howell, interim director of human resources for Seattle, 159 people remained in the four storm shelters as of Friday night.
An estimated 11,751 people in King County are homeless, approximately 5,500 in cars, tents, or other places not intended for human habitation. In the past year, six people believed to be homeless died from causes of hypothermia.
Seattle city spokeswoman Lori Patrick said no one was turned away from a storm home on Friday night. However, two people did not pass COVID-19 screenings. One person was taken to a public health-operated isolation and quarantine facility – Seattle & King County. The other person refused the transport.
Public relations workers screened the people who lived out in the neighborhoods, Howell said. Those in need of housing should call 211. For families with children, call the YMCA at 206-461-4882.
Several locations in the region for coronavirus tests and vaccinations were closed due to the weather on Saturday.
All four test sites in the city are open, said Harold Scoggins, Seattle fire chief.
The Seattle Fire Department is continuing its coronavirus vaccinations with mobile teams “chained up on site to keep delivering the vaccine to the people who need it most,” Durkan said.
Two vaccine teams will have visited 10 sites by the end of the day on Saturday, Scoggins said.
Seattle Fire Department crews responded to nearly double the number of calls, Scoggins said. From 6 p.m. Friday evening through early Saturday afternoon, the department reacted “out the door” more than 400 times, compared to the usual 225 to 250 times in a 24-hour period, Scoggins said.
The Seattle Police Department received more than 600 calls in a 12 hour period, according to Interim Chief Adrian Diaz.
Seattleites could see their garbage service being interrupted if the snow continues.
A small number of commercial and apartment buildings that were picking up trash on Saturdays missed service because the weather created hazards for garbage trucks, said Mami Hara, general manager of Seattle Public Utilities.
If snow and ice remain on Monday, the SPU will work for garbage disposal with a one-day delay, Hara said.
Meanwhile, those who have put up tents or canopies to socialize outside should check them out, as accumulated snow can lead to collapse, Zimbabwe said.
Seattle Times employee reporter Anna Patrick contributed to this report.