I don’t want to go on a rant here … but I’m getting a little tired of the “wow, 1″ of snow, shut down Seattle!” jokes. Seriously, $%*# off. That’s great that you grew up in upstate New York and nothing short of two feet of snow even delayed school, but that’s not how things work around here.
While a lot of our drivers are indeed fundamentally retarded in anything more than rain, our inability to function as a city (and a county, really) when it snows is due to a few major things:
- Topography. Seattle is a stick shift-driver’s worst nightmare, even in prime conditions. Hills inside the city limits go up to an elevation of 500+ feet, and down to sea level. Some hills have up to 21% slope. And, these aren’t just arterials. Queen Anne Ave, for example, is a pretty heavily-trafficked area, and has an 18% slope. If you think I’m crazy, just follow the link on the header for some official numbers from the Seattle DOT.
- Anti-snow supplies. On average, it doesn’t snow more than a few days a year in Seattle and the surrounding areas. That being said, it would be kind of silly to invest in and maintain a bunch of snowplows, salt, sand and de-icer, wouldn’t it? This is particularly true in a city that is considering implementing a toll between $3.50-5/trip to pay for repairs on a bridge that has needed it for years. The money isn’t there, folks, and if a politician suggested spending money on snow equipment, he/she would be flayed alive. So, the ENTIRE City of Seattle currently has 30 trucks that can be fitted with rubber-edged snowplows, 2 honest-to-goodness snowplows, and 4 de-icer trucks. That is 36 vehicles for a city with 617,000 residents (in Seattle proper … 3.4 million in Seattle Metro), that spans 143 square miles, with 1,531 miles of streets deemed “major arterials.” So, for every 17,139 Seattleites (CITY Seattleites, not METRO Seattleites who may commute in) and 43 miles of major arterial road, there is one truck. To top it off, our rubber-tipped snowplows will clear snow, but not ice (which, as you’ll see, is the real problem).
- Weather. The Pacific Northwest — and particularly Seattle — serves as a “landing pad” for big weather systems moving through the Pacific Ocean. We’re also surrounded by two mountain ranges, which tends to add a level of unpredictability. In a 2008 Seattle P-I article, UW atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass said the following:
The so-called “Puget Sound convergence zone” is a moving target that describes a weather reunion — when an onshore weather system that gets split by the Olympics meets again somewhere over the greater Seattle metropolitan area. And what kind of weather you get is, of course, determined to a large extent by where you live — how close to the water, elevation and the like.
And, if you check out the average temperatures in Seattle’s winter history, you’ll see that they usually dance around 32 degrees F … freezing. This normally wouldn’t be a problem until it gets cold enough to snow … then it warms back up during mid-day or early afternoon (partially melting said snow), and then drops again in the evening (freezing said melted snow into sheets of ice). THIS is where things go awry … and leads me to my next point:
Ninja Edit: I’ll be honest, I got to this point, logged on to Reddit randomly, and found this post: “In defense of Seattle drivers.” It achieves everything I was trying to do in this post, and he’s got way more cred than me because he’s from ALASKA.
So, anyway, /endrant. Lots of fun stuff to blog about, and per usual, it’s just banging around in my head, waiting for an outlet. If I can pry myself away from my umpteenth playthrough of Earthbound, I may just do it tonight 😀
Currently Loving: Hugo’s cover of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” puffy vests (preferrably with hoods … this sort of looks like the one I’m wearing today), the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (not only was Gerard Butler there, but the girls all genuinely looked like they were having so much fun)
this incredible image brought to you by ShedBOy^