24 December, 2008

Seattle streets still snowy

Whenever anything happens in Seattle, other than rain, it seems that the entire fabric of our city's infrastructure unravels. Two years ago, there was a windstorm. Not a hurricane, mind you, but a windstorm. And many trees fell. And the result was that roads in some areas were closed for over a week, with trees blocking passage, and many people were without power for a large portion of that period. Also two years ago, there was an ice storm. That's a bit of a glorified name for it. There was a modest snowstorm, and then temperatures plunged into the teens for several days. And the city, as well as all neighboring towns, came to a screeching halt. Cars were abandoned in the middle of intersections. Vehicles were overturned on the median. It looked as if some giant weather monster had come along and had its merry way with things. 

And now, for the past 6 days, Western Washington has been the "victim" of storm, after storm, after storm. All in the form of snow. And these were legitimate snowstorms. Not just the usual dusting that causes the city to come to a halt, but the kind where action must be taken. Normally, we just shut down, and wait it out. But the severity, and duration of this series of events has demanded that the state at least try to do something about the snow.

It is not going well. 

And now we know why...

Today's Seattle Times had a front-page article that explained, apparently, where things went so horribly wrong. It turns out, the reason why the roads are not doing so well is that the road crews have been attempting to clear snow and ice using children's toys. I knew it seemed strange that the plow I saw the other night said "Tonka" on the back of it. But seriously, you cannot even begin to imagine, unless you live here, the condition of the roads. Interstate highways, fortunately, are fine. Not sure why they're different than the surface roads, but they are, and that's a damn good thing. Though the response time for that clearing process was arguably slower than one would expect. 

The city roads, even ones that are considered "main streets", are a disaster of frozen and packed surfaces with large ruts and gaps that occasionally show through to the pavement below. The rutting itself is such that it will literally toss vehicles back and forth on the road surface, and cause spontaneous fishtailing, even with chained tires. And, as the article above suggests, the situation has grown worse, not better, as the days have passed, largely due to the poor function (and possibly, poor operation) of the city's few snow plows.

Now we are on the cusp of yet another series of storms that could dump up to another half foot of snow in Seattle, this time on top of everything already there. And I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like to navigate that.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing that he Interstates have to be kept clear as a priority of the State of Washington, whereas the 'main' streets of Seattle are subject to the massive ineptitude of the SDOT. SDOT has to be the single most incompetent city department EVER. I've had frustrating battles with them for years over sidewalks, traffic mitigation, prioritization of services, etc. The SDOT is run by imbeciles, with a shining star of inadequacy at the top: Mayor Nickels. I curse myself daily for EVER voting for that asshat.