It actually does snow in Seattle, but it’s not known for being buried in it. Thus, what you mean by snow might actually depend on where you’re from or the kind of snow you’ve experienced before. Seattle’s winter weather is limited greatly by the Pacific Ocean, where temperatures stay fairly even throughout the year. But every now and then, cold air gets pushed into the region, giving rise to cold spells and even snow.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Seattle is not a place where you’re knee deep in snow. Instead, the levels just go up a couple of inches or so. Sometimes it just feels like there’s more dust on the ground than snow. However, because snow isn’t that common in Seattle, the people who live there learn to appreciate even the few snowflakes that actually do come down.
In spite of this, there are a couple of interesting ways Seattle interacts with its not-so-heavy snow seasons. Here are some interesting facts about Seattle’s snow.
The most snow that Seattle has ever had was 64 inches. This record was made back in 1880. Usually, however, the average is about five inches of snow every season. In some years they don’t get any snow. Other notable snow seasons include the 21.4 inches back in 1950 and the 21.5 inches in 1916. Getting snow of this amount is really rare in Seattle.
Snow causes Seattle to shut down. It’s best not to underestimate the impact of the minimal snowfall that happens in Seattle. The truth is that the city tends to slow or even shut down with mere inches of snow. This might be surprising when compared to other cities that continue to operate in spite of deeper snow situations, but you realize that it’s different for Seattle because it’s surrounded by hills where the temperatures can easily hit just above freezing point. This means that the melted snow freezes into ice overnight, making most of the streets incredibly dangerous. Some people still get around the city by bus, but if you do go out, you must be extra careful.
And yes, the snow has given the city some serious problems before. There are roads in Seattle that are so steep they have to be closed down when it snows. Back in 1996 and 1997, landslides occurred because the snow melted too fast, causing the ground to become saturated, triggering disaster.
It takes skill to drive in the snow. If you’re planning on driving around Seattle during snow, you’re going to have to be extra careful. You need to watch out for other cars and keep plenty of space between you and them to avoid accidents. You’re also going to want to stay away from downhill roads as they can be dangerous. Here are a couple of tips to keep yourself safe:
This is definitely not the place to rush. For the most part, you will have to drive extra slowly – at a pace that’s significantly lower than the posted speed limit. So, factor in the extra time you have to spend on the road when you’ve got to be somewhere.
Check your tire treads. Know when you need to replace those treads. A good trick is to insert a penny with Lincoln’s head face down. If you can see all of the head, then the tires have to be replaced.
Tune up before you leave. A pre-trip tune-up will allow you to check for any possible problems with your car, meaning you can deal with them even before you hit the road. Having issues with headlights, brake fluid, or even the battery can be a nightmare if you have to deal with it in the middle of a snowy Seattle road. Make sure you’re gassed up as well.
Bring all your documents with you. This includes license, car registration, and any auto club membership ID. Make sure you know all the emergency numbers just in case.
Get some sleep. Driving on icy roads requires more concentration and focus, so make sure you sit behind the wheel only when you’re fully rested.
Prepare your travel route. If you think driving slowly on the icy roads will take a lot of time, imagine getting lost or taking a wrong turn. Make sure you’ve got your MapQuest or Waze prepared before you hit the road.
Check the weather forecast. Sometimes it’s okay to go driving in spite of the snow, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t get worse. You might need to be somewhere, but your safety comes first.
If ever your car dies, stay with your car. It provides shelter and it makes it easier for rescuers to find you. Never try to brave a storm on foot.
Public transportation is better. Need to go somewhere on a snowy day? Leave your car and take the bus into either Seattle or Tacoma. These bus drivers know what they’re doing and are more likely to get you to where you need to be in these conditions.
Going out of town? You’re going to have to get through the mountain passes, which can be more dangerous than the roads in the city. Always check the road conditions before you head there. Make sure you chain up as well, since you probably won’t be allowed to get through these roads without them.
Don’t let the locals surprise you. In case you come from a place that’s usually buried deep in snow, try not to stare too much when Seattle locals get thrilled by a few snowflakes falling. Snow is rare for them, so just let them have their fun!
But again, try not to underestimate the amount of snow the city gets. If you’re planning to visit Seattle, especially during October or November, make sure you prepare yourself for bad snow days as well. And if you do get caught in a snowy season while you’re there, consider just booking a hotel and waiting for conditions to get better rather than taking the risk of going out there.