As Extreme Cold Nears, Seattle Crews Prepare For Snow And Ice

SEATTLE — Seattle and its neighbors are preparing for a severe cold snap, with snowfall forecast over the holiday weekend, followed by some of the coldest temperatures the region has seen in a long time.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan gathered a roster of city leaders for a news briefing Thursday afternoon to discuss preparations for an unusual round of winter weather that may not let up until after the new year.

Reid Wolcott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Seattle office, walked through forecasters’ latest thinking on the approaching blast of arctic air, which is expected to have significant impacts across the Pacific Northwest starting around Christmas night.

“This is a rare event,” Wolcott said. “It’s been many years since those of us at the [National Weather Service] in Seattle have seen forecast data like this, much like the heat event we experienced earlier this year. We urge everyone to make plans now to check-in and ensure their loved ones, neighbors, pets and the entire community remain safe and healthy over the coming week.”

While many in Puget Sound are focused on the snow forecast for the latter half of the holiday weekend, forecasters and city agencies are planning ahead for the dangerous cold expected to settle over the region after Christmas.

“While we will almost certainly see snow accumulations in Seattle, our main concern at this time is the cold that will envelop the region from Sunday onward,” Wolcott said. “Daytime high temperatures across Seattle may struggle to reach freezing every day next week. Overnight lows are currently forecast to drop to around 20 degrees, but could drop as low as the single digits.”

(NWS Seattle)

Right now, forecasters expect the worst of the cold snap will be between Monday and Thursday, but the frigid air is likely to stay in place into 2022. As a result, roads, sidewalks and other untreated surfaces will refreeze continually, creating an extended period of hazards for pedestrians and vehicles and dangerously cold conditions for those without proper heating or shelter.

“Temperatures much below normal could last well into early January,” Wolcott said. “It’s important to make preparations now. Make plans to prepare your homes, your pets, your vehicles for cold weather. Temperatures of this magnitude will bring a high risk of cold-related impacts, including frostbite and hypothermia to those that are unprepared and those without access to effective warming.”

(NWS Seattle)

The Seattle Department of Transportation will stand up 24-hour operations beginning Christmas Eve morning, with plans in place to keep priority streets, arterials and transit routes plowed and treated. Despite staffing challenges, due to increasing omicron infections, SDOT leaders said they have secured enough staff for extended shifts through New Year’s Day, if necessary.

SDOT shared a few ways for residents to prepare, including:

Seattle City Light is also prepared to work around the clock to ensure power stays on, and outages are restored quickly. Debra Smith, City Light’s CEO, said the winter months typically bring the highest energy demand, but the week ahead will be relatively uncharted territory.

“While we have done our best to estimate what those loads may be over this next period of time, we don’t have a lot of historical data to make those numbers solid,” Smith said. “A normal winter for us is about 1,500 – 1,600 megawatts as the peak, and we are looking at Dec. 27 with a peak of almost 2,000 megawatts, which is actually very close to our [highest] peak ever, which occurred back in 1990.”

City Light shared three ways for Seattleites to prepare for outages, along with a list of tips for staying safe when the power goes out:

  • Be prepared for potential power outages with blankets, flashlights and batteries. And don’t forget to charge your devices so you can call if you need assistance, can keep an eye on the status with our online outage map (, follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or pass the time.
  • If you see a downed power line, stay at least 35 feet away and call 9-1-1.
  • Avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by never bringing generators, camp stoves or barbeques indoors.

With a prolonged freeze on the horizon, Seattle Public Utilities also shared a list of household preparations to help protect against frozen pipes and other severe weather mishaps:

  • Protect indoor sink pipes that are against exterior walls by opening under-sink cabinet doors to allow indoor heat to circulate.
  • Allow one indoor faucet to slowly drip cold water. Select the faucet that is the farthest from your front door.
  • Protect water pipes from freezing in exposed or unheated areas (attics, basements and garages) by wrapping them with tape and insulating materials.
  • Drain and remove all outdoor hoses and cover faucets for hose bibs.
  • Know where your shutoffs are located. If an emergency occurs, you’ll need to know how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves.
  • If you suspect your pipes are frozen, follow these steps:
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe, an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, or an electric hair dryer. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device. Do not use electrical devices if there is standing water.
  • If a water pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding. The shut-off valve can be indoors or outdoors, usually in a basement, crawlspace or garage.
  • If you cannot turn off the main shut-off valve, SPU customers can call (206) 386-1800 and a crew will turn off the water at the meter for a service charge.

For those without stable housing, the city announced two severe weather shelters that will operate nightly between Christmas and Dec. 29, along with a few daytime warming shelters. City and regional officials are working to bring more warming centers online by Monday.

  • Seattle Center Exhibition Hall – Operated by Salvation Army: 301 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA 98109. Enter though main entrance off Mercer Street and go down the stairs. Serves 100+ people, all genders, 18+ years, non-aggressive leashed dogs and cats under owner control allowed. The Seattle Center campus hygiene station will be accessible. The Armory opens daily at 10am for day warming.
    • Served directly by Metro Bus routes 3, 4, 5, 8, 16, 28, RapidRide E Line, and nearby routes include: 1, 13, and RapidRide D Line.
  • Compass Housing Alliance Shelter in Pioneer Square: 210 Alaskan Way South, Seattle, WA 98104. Enter at the corner of So. Washington and Alaskan Way. Serves 80+ people, all genders, 18+ years, service animals only at this location. Day Center also available at this location.
    • Served by nearby public transit services (1-3 blocks away): Seattle Streetcar, Link Light Rail, routes 21, 29, 55, 56, 57, 101, 102, 111, 113, 114, 120, 121, 115, 150, 162, 177, 190, 212, 214, 216, 217, 218, 550, 554, RapidRide C, ST 590, ST 592, ST 594, ST 595, ST 577, ST 578, PT 410, PT, 415, PT 417, PT 422, PT 424, and Washington State Ferries.
  • People, including youth, in need of shelter should call 2-1-1 or 1-877-211-9274
  • Parents or guardians caring for one or more child 18 years or younger can get emergency shelter help by calling the King County Coordinated Family Intake Line at 206-245-1026, 8am – 11:30pm, 365-days a year.
  • The YWCA’s women and family shelter intake line can be reached at 206-461-4882.

More information about Seattle’s winter preparations is available on the mayor’s blog, and the National Weather Service will continue to share weather updates on its social media pages.

Source: Bellevue Patch