Seattle's much-improved response to a snowstorm
The city of Seattle response to this week's snowstorm is much improved from its terrible no-road-salt response in December 2008. Mayor Mike McGinn benefited from policy changes made after that storm, but he canceled a trip to stay in town to assist with the city's effort.
Seattle Times Editorial
THERE is no way to pretty up the hundreds of nasty car wrecks and thousands of people stranded and inconvenienced regionwide by power failures, downed trees and a snow and ice storm destined for the history books.
But Seattleites in particular should be thankful for — praiseful of — the city's much-improved response. Things were maddening, of course, but snow removal was conducted much more smoothly compared with the snows of 2008 when then-Mayor Greg Nickels was in charge, if that is the right term.
As the rains return — glorious rain — one take-away point is that the city and Metro exhibited clear control and coordination. If the city plowed a particular snow-bus route on Queen Anne Hill, for example, and more snow dumped, crews went back multiple times and replowed. Key bus routes were open much of the time.
Many residents do not care much about what transpires at City Hall until there is an event like a snowstorm, when they need the city to work in a thoughtful manner. For example, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chairman of the council's transportation committee, ensured that sidewalks at Westlake Park in the city's retail core were de-iced and shoveled.
Before he took office, Mayor Mike McGinn was warned that a snowstorm could ruin a mayor's career. But even factoring in that less-than-subtle heads-up, he responded admirably. He canceled a planned trip to Washington, D.C., so he could be present. Remember the infamous quote from the transportation director in 2008 who was out of town for part of the snow response: "I don't drive a snowplow."
McGinn stayed at the command center and coordinated city efforts. He personally delivered doughnuts to snowplow drivers. This was a good moment for him. He benefited from numerous policy changes implemented since the earlier chaos, but executed well.
For one thing, the city now uses salt; its ineffective no-salt policy was reversed after the lame snow effort three years ago. This time, brine and road salt were applied to major roads before, during and after the snow and ice arrived. Snow plows worked ahead of buses and cleared the way.
Some businesses shoveled their sidewalks; even more did not. Many citizens helped by telecommuting and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Everyone learned a lesson from 2008. The city's all-hands-on-deck approach, combined with genuine leadership from the mayor and council, made this monster storm a little easier to handle.