Today is Day 2 of the Council's review of the city's snow response. Here are the key facts and conclusions I gleaned from yesterday's briefing:
- The Mayor's decision to allow some use of salt, along with de-icing solutions and sand, is a good one and represents the kind of balanced approach necessary to enhance mobility of vehicles around town. Scientists told us yesterday that the occasional use of salt to melt snow and ice is not a significant negative factor with regard to fish populations. Far more damaging is the debris from vehicle brakes, dripping oil, and other vehicle pollutants that flow into the storm water drainage system and eventually into Puget Sound, lakes and streams.
- The director of SDOT reported that city crews plow to the roadway surface and do not plow to leave a compact layer of snow/ice. This is contrary to what has been reported by the news media, personal observation, and anecdotal reports from citizens throughout the city. We need to get to the bottom of this issue, so to speak.
- It is not clear whether Metro's primary snow routes for buses are all included in the city's
approximately 1,500 lane miles of high priority arterials to be plowed during snow storms like the ones we have experienced since December 14. The lack of bus service, even limited snow route service, was a major complaint during the storms and caused huge disruptions to work schedules. Read a description of the city's snow management plan here. View a map of the city's snow routes here. It's clear from this map that many of Metro's primary service routes are not included in the city's primary snow clearing arterials. For example, the Metro 3 and Metro 4 lines serving Queen Anne, downtown, and Capitol Hill did not run for over a week and these are heavily used bus lines.
On the good news side, we learned yesterday that . . .
- Emergency routes to all major hospitals were kept open throughout the storm period (December 12 through December 25).
- There was a moderate increase (delay) in fire department response times, but no significant fires or life-threatening medical emergencies or deaths related to the storms.
- When Greyhound closed their Seattle bus terminal, then improperly transported customers to already full emergency shelters, police officers drove many of these stranded travelers to alternative shelters, including the city's emergency shelters.
- Except for the day of the Greyhound closure, the city's emergency shelters operated at less than full capacity throughout the storm. City human services staff and police officers searched throughout the city for homeless people, offered them emergency shelter, and transported them to shelters.
- There were no reported incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning as occurred in recent winter storms caused by people using improper heating or cooking devices (e.g., BBQs) in enclosed areas. The city's advertising and community outreach campaigns appear to have worked quite well in this regard.
- City case managers who deal with shut-ins and others needing special attention were provided with four-wheel drive vehicles so they could make personal visits to the most at-risk individuals to check on their safety.
- The city's volunteer amateur radio operators were used to provide rides to hospital workers and medical patients who needed transportation.
We continue our review this morning at 9:30 in Council chambers.