Get Ready for the Snowpocalypse

Illustration by Madeline Warnes

Last year King and surrounding counties had many transportation issues caused by too much snow and too little preparation. This year county officials aim to prepare better.

According to the Seattle Government website, the area around Seattle normally does not get that much snow.  However, last year there was an abundance of snow, which threw off the plan of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

In the ‘Thanksgiving storm’ last year, the snow and ice hit earlier than predicted and was about 10 degrees colder than predicted,” WSDOT communications employee, Alice Fiman, stated.  “We hope with the new coastal radar there is more information on incoming storms. But, when snow and ice hit during heavy commute hours in urban areas, it’s always a challenge.”

The transportation system all over the Seattle area were delayed and cancelled for days after the initial snow.

“I have to take five buses to get from my home to the U-district,” said University of Washington student, Ira Chizhova.

Chizhova had trouble getting to and from school on the days that the snow was worst.

“The first day it snowed I could not get home by bus, so instead I had to take Light Rail,” said Chizhova.  “As the consequence of that I was stuck in huge traffic jam after leaving the station. It took about hour and a half to get home.”

Chizhova had signed up for the Metro Public Transport emergency alert system that was supposed to keep members aware of any bus cancellations.  The morning that she had to go to school, Chizhova checked her email for any alerts.  Finding none, she proceed to leaving her house and continuing on with her day as normal.  Unfortunately, there were still problems to come with the transportation that morning. 

I spent an hour waiting for my bus to show up, which was supposed to be, according to the schedule, at 7:50,” said Chizhova.  “I got on another bus and eventually after three hours of being freezing cold made it to Seattle.” 

Metro had many problems over the course of the snow.  Videos from last year show a Metro bus sliding down a hill because of the ice on the road. Also, as the snow started in the afternoon, Metro drivers were trapped on their routes, having to wait for hours until help could come.  Cars and buses were backed up, stuck and abandoned all over roads as the snow persisted.  The next day, there were delays in routes as the buses had to drive slower than usual.

“I was only affected slightly because I work in the mornings, so I wasn’t out when the snow hit,” explained Metro bus driver Ryan Warnes.  “But the day that the snow hit, the afternoon drivers were unprepared and got stuck and no one could come and help them because there were just too many people out.  So the drivers and passengers were stuck for hours in the buses.”

After the initial shock of the snow the mechanics at Metro had the buses chained up by the next route.  This did cause delays.  While driving with chains, buses can only travel at a maximum speed of 30 mph.  This is a problem as many freeways and other roads that buses drive on go much faster than that.  Also, after the snow was found to be a problem, Metro resorted routes made special in the case of a issue such as this.  These so-called snow routes take care to avoid large hills and other areas of potential incidents.

The snow affected people at AHS as well.  As the snow hit after students and staff were already at school, both had trouble getting home that afternoon.  It took some time for the district to decide when and how the students would get home.  Those with cars were allowed to leave early, but everyone else had to wait at school for the district to decide what to do.  Students were told that they would be let out at noon; however, AHS students were later told that they were going to have to wait until two.

“The snow day was horrible…it seemed to me was that the district was more concerned in how much time students spend at school rather than how safe they are in getting home,” said AHS senior, Jared Sharp.  “But in hindsight, the district had to stagger the schools because we just don’t have any extra buses to handle every student at once. 

As the staff have cars of their own, they too were allowed to leave early.  Unfortunately, roads around the school were blocked by stuck cars, as well as being covered in snow and ice.

Karen Wilson, an Algebra teacher at AHS, left later than than other staff.  She started heading home on 200th Street but was soon met with a problem on one of the hills.

It got really bad and a bunch of cars were starting to stop on the hill leading up the prison,” Wilson said.  “I knew if I stopped, I was doomed.”

After that Wilson turned around and drove toward the airport, hoping to make it over the hill by the golf course.  She made it and continued on in her journey.

“The snow was actually sparser as you went further south, so the driving got easier and I was able to get on I-5 and drive home safely,” Wilson said, “about 15 minutes after I got home, the big snow hit us.  So, I feel like I made it just in time!

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