Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Big November Storm - How Did We Do?

We've heard from many of you via e-mail. Now is your chance to share your thoughts - good or bad - with your fellow November snow storm survivors. Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald said clearly throughout the week that we can find room for improvement in our review of our performance so far. Although WSDOT crews tirelessly worked the roads despite the snow and freezing temperatures. What do you think?

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll preface this by saying that I live at Stevens Pass, so I know what a fantastic job DOT can do. That said, the Seattle-area fiasco was not an anomaly, it happens EVERY TIME there is a snowstorm there, and my main complaint is that it always lasts for days after the storm, i.e., untill the temperature gets above freezing. I'll excuse you Monday night because of the suddeness of the storm, but there is no excuse for the interstates still being solid ice on Tuesday. I drove back to Stevens on Tuesday and US 2 was bare and wet from Gold Bar to the Pass. If you can get the ice off US 2 when it is 12 degrees you should be able to get the ice off the freeways in Seattle when it is 25 degrees. Do you not keep any of the more "agressive" deicers (as you call them on your website) in the Seattle area? Like I said, this was not an anomaly, it happens every time. Maybe you should send your Seattle-area drivers to train with the Chelan-based drivers for a couple of days a year in the fall so they get a little practice with these kinds of conditions.

Anonymous said...

Robin, Everett, WA
I just want to say thank you. I appreciate the e mail copy of Macdonald's letter to the person who asked what could be done. It was somewhat of an eye opener although we see and appreciate how hard WSDOT works in our neighborhood in the Hwy 9 Hwy 2/trestle area of Lake Stevens. We can always count on that area able to drive really quick when a storm such as this comes in. We did wonder about the issue of northbound 405 between 522 and 527 as i work at Beardslee blvd and left about 4pm on that Monday and were shocked at how quickly it turned into a nightmare. we traveled at about 10-12 mph all the way to I-5 and then it was clear sailing to Hwy 2 and Lake Stevens. I dont think our weathermen can ever get it perfectly right as we have such an unusual weather pattern with convergence zones and such so they do the best they can too. Just wanted to say thank you again for all the hard work those trucks did!!

Anonymous said...

Michael, Anacortes, WA
Having just read your response to a Constituent, well done! Having been born and raised (43 years) in the State of Alaska, I’m no stranger to the storm that hit western Washington this week. The job WSDOT did was commendable. Everyone who really takes the time to think it through will understand that this is an event that rarely occurs and would be difficult for the best prepared organization to deal with. Talk to the folks in Anchorage and you’ll find that the first snow of the year typically creates over 100 fender bender accidents…. and this from people who supposedly know how to drive on it. The fact is, we came out of this pretty well intact and we owe you and your organization a big “THANK YOU”!!!!!!

Please let all those drivers, maintenance people and everyone else involved know that this ex-Alaskan says WELL DONE!

Anonymous said...

Well, I live in Brier, work downtown and my husband works in Bellevue, where our son also goes to daycare. I left work at 3:30pm, so I just missed the worst of it, as I got home about 4:20pm, via I-5. Patrick, on the other hand, takes I-405, getting off at the Mill Creek exit. He ended up turning around in Kirkland at 10:30 pm and going back to the home daycare, where Tia took them in and put them up for the night. I sort of had already figured out much of what MacDonald had explained. However, I still think that the behaviour of drivers deserves more scrutiny.
This excuse that we never get this kind of snow here, just doesn't hold up. I was born and raised here in the Seattle Metropolitan area in 1961. There have been enough severe storms and news articles written about how to drive in icy conditions to paper I-5 from Federal Way to Mill Creek in that time. There has been a large in-flux of population from other parts of the country and they weren't all from Orange County California. I saw countless cars with windshield wipers going, BUT NOT THEIR HEADLIGHTS!!!! As they say, you can't legislate against stupidity! And I'd have to say that I agree with my husband (who's lived here and many cities on the East Coast, always driving back and forth), Puget Sound drivers are some of the worst in the country. So, please invest a little more in small maintenance areas along I405 where at least winter stockpiles of sand/salt/brine de-icers could be stored temporarily. One in the north and one in the south should provide adequate coverage. However, I think a large part of the problem involves driver error, and needs to be acknowledged by the general public.

Anonymous said...

I find it fascinating that you have not had one comment that criticizes your efforts on Monday. With all the Levies that have been passed, and the 10 cent a gallon tax increase. You would think that you would have a snowplow or two that could remove snow in case of a storm. While it is on a lot smaller scale, your preparedness and lack of response rivals New Orleans.

Dave said...

In my opinion, it wasn't the DOT that failed, it was the small percentage of idiots out there who screwed up the roads for others. The response letter touches on this, but, in this case, that was the cause. Despite big, blaring warnings from every type of media, a small, but significant, percentage of the population was simply unprepared and uneducated.

I, in my AWD vehicle (blankets, gloves, extra food in the car) got stuck on an offramp, behind a semi whose driver had no clue how to put on chains (he ended up calling his cousin to come teach him) and a line of 20 people, some of whom came up the offramp just until they stopped (for good). We finally got chains on the semi, pushed a bunch of rear-wheel drive people (a few in high heels or business suits with no winter clothes) off to the side of the road while they desperately called for friends/relatives to come get them; I and a few other prepared drivers proceeded on our ways.

There have been times the DOT has screwed up (I sent Mr. MacDonald a letter after the I-90/Thanksgiving fiasco and got an almost immediate response on a Sunday evening...nice). But these snowstorm traffic disasters are not the DOT's fault, at least not in the sense of needing more sanders, chemicals, plows, etc. Heck, we only got 6-8 inches of snow in many of the problem places.

Until we better educate our populace about how to deal with snow, this will continue no matter how many snowplows we purchase.

...Dave

P.S. I kindof like the idea of sending people to eastern WA for a winter; I spend a lot of time on that side of the mountains and the experience is invaluable. More doable, how about we create a special category of drivers license, "Snow Capable". You've got to pass some new test (driving in an ice rink, plus some class time). If you don't have your "snow" rating, you can't drive in the snow. Rather, you've got to call a "snow-rated cab" or something.

Anonymous said...

I can't say you did your job at all. You said the truck would have been stuck in traffic had it been on the raod during the worst traffic. However, I was prepared, I had an AWD vehicle with snow tires. I got home in three hours after helping dozens of stuck motorists. However, at 5AM in the morning I drove south on I-405 from canyon park to I-5 and back to Bellevue. I passed nor did I see a SINGLE DOT vehicle. There was NO sand nor de-ice placed on the road that night. Did you let all your employees sleep so they could de-ice in Tuesday morning's traffic jam again? Tuesday night, still NO sand nor de-icer on I-405. In your letter you mentioned you knew this was the worst hit area....
Finally on Wednesday I saw a sand truck placing sand on the icy section from canyon park to the community college. However, this was at 7AM in rush hour traffic. Your sand truck turned on the spreaders just as I was passing throwing a nice sized rock into my window. Where can I send the bill?

Anonymous said...

I got home after a 6 hour commute from Redmond to North Bothell, I only got home because of the WSDOT.

The weather is to blame for the traffic nightmare not anyone/thing else. I was one of about 50 or more people stranded at the bottom of a hill on 133rd and Juanita, everyone did a great job of working together and helping each other, in a way it was a rewarding 2 hour experience. Thanks to a DOT sanding trucks arrival at 1:30 in the morning I walked through my own front door at 3am and did not have to sleep in my car or a stranger’s house.

I give my thanks to everyone I met Monday night in Juanita and to the WSDOT, for getting me home safe.

Mitchell, Bothel

Anonymous said...

Mr. MacDonald:

Wow. I'm impressed. I found your response on the Seattle Times web page, and I think it should be posted in much larger type. Your thoughtful, detailed set of answers once again gives me faith in "civil servants."

I did not go to work on Monday. At the top of Capitol Hill, Sunday's ice had not melted yet -- plus I chose to believe the weather reports I was hearing on radio and TV, that a snowstorm was going to hit right when the football game started. I did not want to be caught in that snow / football fan mess at commute time, so I stayed home. And then I listened to KOMO radio taking calls at 3 in the morning on Tuesday, from fans who still had not gotten home from the Seahawks game.

And I saw the news clips during the day on Tuesday, with WSDoT officials saying, "Yeah, our weather reports said it would only rain at sea level, not snow."

And I thought to myself, "What the hell??? If I know that it is going to snow at Quest Field at 5:00 p.m., how can the WSDoT *NOT* know?"

Your letter to your constituent explained it all. I have never before seen or heard of a government official taking so much time and trouble to explain a situation. No excuses, no passive-voice "mistakes were made" rhetoric. Just, "Here's what happened." Wow.

You should definitely post your letter on the WSDoT web site. You should also send out a press release to all local radio and TV stations with a summarized version.

According to your letter, your one major regret was that:
"...the least we could have done ... would be to have executives on the radio giving people a WSDOT perspective on what the situation was, why it was happening, what we (and others) were doing to try to help, and so forth. We did not do this. We were not adequately set up to do it. We should have been. While crews in the field were trying to do their best, I was disappointed that managers were not providing the big-picture overview to the public."

Provide that big-picture overview to the public now, and you'll go a long way toward restoring and building people's trust in their honest, hardworking government officials.

Very impressed,

Jocelyn, Seattle

Anonymous said...

Mr. MacDonald,

I wanted to thank you for your response and explanation regarding the winter storm posted on the WSDOT website. I live in the Woodinville area and spent some time in ‘the mess’ Monday evening. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances and it is difficult to prepare for the rare and freakish weather events. Reading your explanation was very helpful to me. I particularly liked your candor which I found refreshing, especially from a government official and I want to thank you for that. Your explanation provided insight to what the WSDOT crews were facing and gives me a better appreciation for their efforts through out the storm. I’m certain you have received many complaints from frustrated drivers caught in Monday’s snow storm. I know of many others that just did the best they could with it, as you and your crews did. Thank you for your efforts and good luck with the next winter storm.

James, Washington Motorist, Woodinville

Anonymous said...

Guess it's time to build another sports stadium or enlarge the freeway system. Heaven forbid we should spend money on any form of mass transit like Vancouver, BC's SkyTrain system.......

Mat said...

As someone who had to leave my vehicle just off the freeway, needless to say our hike home made my wife and I unhappy. WSDOT is in a tough position; I understand that.

That said, I would have appreciated more control over the situation. The point about the de-icer liquid is valid; you don't want it to rain away. However, you can't tell me that in a place where rain and snow often mix that this is the best solution. Salt doesn't melt. It would seem that better choices in advance could have been made.

-Mat

Anonymous said...

Well, having left Bellevue at roughly 6pm Monday night - due in part to my daughter's bus arriving very late to Newport Hills to bring her to the BTC - we arrived home in Woodinville at about 9pm. Two comments - with the early snow Monday morning the traffic into Bellevue was extremely light - where did everybody come from? Those thousands of drivers in the gridlock all the way home were not on the roads in the morning! Mystifying. Regardless, the DOT and the drivers and everyone involved may have been late off the block but they were up all night and out all the next day plowing and sanding and they have my complete gratitide for the long, exhausting and thankless hours they put in to help make us safe. The management may have not been prepared but no one can fault those drivers who worked all night and were caught in the same mess we were.

On another note, for God's sake people when the reports predict snow PUT THE CHAINS IN THE CAR! AND LEARN HOW TO USE THEM! SLOW DOWN! Eh those people will never learn. They screw it up for all of us!

David said...

Well, the blame game is happening, and I want you all to remember that when you point at something, there are more fingers pointing back at you.

I heard the weather reports, and chose to leave for work early, and leave for home early. I missed all the crap, got done what was needed, and had little stress over it. Why must you stick exactly to your daily routine?

WE voters have slashed WSDOT funding drastically with our need for $30 tabs, and oversight auditing of WSDOT, and all the other things we as responsible citizens desire. Then we get up in arms, because the Department tries to be fiscially responsible, and not spend money they do not really have. We are terribly short sighted, Eh?

We have become a state of NIMBY, entitlement driven whiners. It bit us all. Buck up.

WSDOT did an amazing job with the tools we let them have.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated that your web site kept us all up to date and handled the immense amount of online traffic. I am a Seattle resident who works in Redmond. I read the News links and the Highway Weather Updates as well as used the traffic cams and flow maps.

I hate to see the criticism WSDOT is receiving because your crews were working very hard. Hang in there despite the barrage.

Anonymous said...

To the secretary: Your response was refreshingly self-critical and an attempt to use fact and logic to explain Monday's events. I'll admit that I and many other drivers were not prepared for the ferocity of the storm. Therefore, placing all the blame on DOT for our misery is disingenuous and non-productive. By the way, comparing Monday's events to New Orleans is unfair to your department and to the victims of Katrina (some of whom were themselves unprepared). Storing extra machinery and materials in several places along the highway makes sense; is there space in the circular "mini-parks" inside freeway ramps for this during winter?
Most people I work with do not blame DOT, but recognize the combination of events that forced us into the worst traffic in memory. You've demonstrated honesty and fairness while learning from mistakes. Thanks for your ongoing work.

sabayon said...

I believe that the WSDOT crews did the best they could on Monday night.

Everyone of the folks that went to that football game or elsewhere on Monday evening had to have a pretty good idea of the weather conditions. How many times do the TV and radio announcers have to say, "Stay home if you don't need to go out in this weather."? I stayed in my nice, warm, comfortable home and watched the game on television.

I would like to commend the WSDOT agency director for his letter response.

In my opinion, the biggest responsibility for the traffic fiasco on Monday should go to the civilian drivers that were ill-prepared. No amount of de-icing, salting, or sanding can contain a weather pattern such as we experienced in Western Washington on Monday.

WSDOT crews, you have my congratulations on a job well done. While I am at home nice and warm, you all are out there on 12 hour shifts trying to tackle as much as you can. I appreciate all the work that you do. One mess up should not take away all the "atta boys" you receive.

Folks, think about all the good things these hard working crews do accomplish.

Anonymous said...

As a former Michigan resident, I can say that even their DOT doesn't get it right all the time. As I read through Mr. MacDonald's response and the attached field report, one thing came to mind- how about looking into a small number of smaller deicer/sander trucks that can squeeze through on the medians- something is better than nothing! Also echoed in the other responses is some of the stupid driver stunts that caused a lot of problems. I personally witnessed a US Postal Service tractor/trailer rig think they had 18 wheel drive and unsuccessfully tackle a packed-ice uphill grade without chains! The second suggestion is for all drivers to find and map out in good weather at least two alternate routes to and from work/daycare so that they don't all clog up the same main rut every time, and things might flow a bit better- I had to do it Tuesday morning, forsaking Highway 99- which could use a few more traffic cameras please- for a side street, and even at 20 to 25 MPH due to packed ice I still made a lot of distance compared to the 4 MPH on Hwy. 99. I hope that Mr. MacDonald lives up to his claim of wanting to learn from this event, and others involved try to be more prepared as well.

Jim G. said...

Cool, now every bozo can chime in w/ their .02 worth...and hey, I'm no exception...so here goes!

The cluster I went thru to get home on Tuesday night was horrible. Just a total and complete mess of sideways cars, frantic half-paniked people and my 8 mos. pregnant wife at home watching KOMO and KING5 news.

And I take the King County Metro Rt. 522 bus to get from Seattle to the Kenmore Park & Ride. I left work at 3 PM. And I was LUCKY I got home at 5:30!

My co-worker - who also takes Rt. 522 left 1 hour after I left work - said that at 9 o' clock the bus driver actually MADE them get out 5 or 6 blacks past 125th...in a residential neighborhood...and with that he basically washed his hands of all of his riders. There were about 15 passengers. She walked 25 blocks to a friends house. Wearing a pair of Nikes. Shame on that King County Metro transit driver for that. Thats pretty awful! Hey at least take people back to the Bus Barn or something? But to leave them all stranded in the 'Burbs?

Can I just hurry up and beat up WADOT or to a lesser extent King County Metro for all of this...no way, not at all.

There is still some personal resposibilty hiding in the permafrost somewhere..let's see if I can find it, oh- here it is.

How about I get some chains for my cars, put a couple of Cliff bars in my glove box, and a bottle of water and a blanket in my trunk. Flashlight maybe? Sleeping bag?

Lets also get King County Metro to make a policy - all busses must carry chains, ad all drivers must really know how to put 'em on. REALLY know how. Like, as in practiced this two or three times wearing big warm gloves w/ bad dexterity until they can do it for sure when the snow hits the fan...

Cool?

There you go. Problem solved. No panic. No hand wringing, no boo-hoo hooing for weeks on end about how the " darn Gub Mint" has let me down.

For petes sake kids, recognize your local governments cant save you for all potential Natural Weather Events, aka snowfall, record rainfall et al.

Anybody remember Katrina?

Seattle has been smart enough to market the idea of taking care of yourself for three days in the event of a serious disaster -Katrina / Earthquake event ...it's called 'Three days/ Three ways' So it's TRYING to get people to also recognize that, hey, you might wanna stock up on goodies and supplies so you can live for 72 hours solo - and that you have 3 different ways of coping: make a plan, build an emergency kit, get involved w/ neighbors and contacts to help you out.

Ok, my .02 worth was just stretched into $ 8.63...so I'm all done now. Whew, I feel so much better!

Jim

Anonymous said...

I live close to the Geneva maintenance yard. These guys were going non stop. The DOT does an excellent job. The problem is that most drivers in the Seattle/tacoma corridor are the worst drivers in the country when bad weather occurs. We live in a wet region and these people still cannot drive when it rains, let alone snow. Now the problem with the DOT is that the maintenance yards in the cities are not subjected to significant amounts of snowfall like your Stevens Pass or Snoqualmie, where it snows every year. I would like to extend my appreciation to those who worked hard to make are commute safer.

Anonymous said...

Yes other states get it wrong, but when it comes to the lowlands here in the Seattle area and suberbs, the WSDOT does not get it right but a few times every 10 years or so. I personally think the WSDOT did a horrible job. A good friend of mine working for the WSDOT let me know that his boss was told to the let everyone go home on Monday night, but leave a skeleton crew, when it started snowing. They sent people home instead of going out and acutally making sure everything was ok on the roads. Then it turned out to be one of the worst nights for commuters including elderly, school buses, air travelers and more. More people lost money and cars due to a poor job done by the State. The State should be paying to get those folks cars out of impound due to not taking car of road conditions like they should have when the snow started. WSDOT is one of the worst in the States when it comes to being prepared for snow, ice and road problems. I also agree about idiot drivers, however they are around all of the time, snow or no snow. We just happen to notice them more when we are driving like we should be. And that is with respect to others.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Washington all of my life. What consistently amazes me is the lack of snow clearance on 405 *North* of the King County line. The snow plows apparently hit SR 522 and just stop. Apparently in the mistaken belief that no one goes north to Snohomish County. Tuesday morning it was SOLID, compact snow and ice making traffic through there ponderously slow. SR-527 in Snohomish County never saw sand or de-icer. As new development along this highway clearly continues to be allowed, (despite the fact that this highway is buckling under the traffic) there are no apparent plans to widen the highway). On any given morning it can take 30 minutes to get from my home to 405 (2 miles away).
SALT SALT SALT

Anonymous said...

Thank you WSDOT for you hard work. I support you 100%. I thought you all did a great job.

Anonymous said...

I moved here from the Sierra/Lake Tahoe area and my take on this is that the bigger problem is with us, the commuter, not our government agencies. Sure, there is sometimes (maybe even often) waste and laziness in the system which should be corrected. But the key problem is the community and our attitude - everyone of us who complained. We need to realize that, in fact, we are *not* in total control of our environment and we can not dictate to the weather or "mother nature". This is not a man-made environment/situation like our workplace or family. Yes, we can plan and prepare, but not for every situation: and certainly mother nature can throw at us lightening, rain, ice, earthquakes, et cetera with a magnitude well beyond anything we can manage (let alone control).

So, while the local, state and federal entities need to evaluate and plan, the bigger burden is on the community to realize we can't control everything (even admitting defeat to the elements of nature).

Mount Rainier should be a reminder to us of the awsome force of nature. I am probably misunderstanding the science, but for me, Mt. Rainier, like the grand canyon, the oceans, and other things in nature, remind me of just how large the magnitude of nature's power.

Some comments have been that this happenes every year. And the DOT guy mentioned the limited resources owing to infrequent use. Most people understand supply and demand - even if the roads could have been cleared sooner by throwing more money (i.e.: equipment, manpower) at the problem - how many would be willing to pay the added cost for something that rarely happens?

Patrick B said...

I think the worst thing about the entire ordeal this past week was that I personally felt like the drivers on the freeways had been abandonded. It took me 9.5 hours to get from Redmond to Lynnwood (I did pull off the road at 1:30AM for 1.5 hours to take a nap as I was starting to doze off in my car). The longest it has even taken me to drive that route has been 1.5 hours. I sat and listened to the radio and I got most of my information from them and they were getting most of their information from the drivers on the roads. There was little response from the WSP (which themselves were pretty busy) and there was no response from the WSDOT. That last issue seems to be rectifying itself.
Here are a couple of suggestions that I have concerning the situation this past week.
First thing, as someone mentioned previously is that ALL busses should be carrying chains. There is no excuse for this especially since there had already been snow on Sunday and most of Monday. The articulated busses caused a large part of the traffic tie-ups that I heard about and saw for myself and none of these were equipped with chains. Why?
Second issue as mentioned previously as well is that there should be more than 1 location for acquiring sand and de-icing equipment. The trucks may all be located in a single location, but having 1 or 2 small warehouses located around the area would allow the trucks to stay relatively close to their work routes and be quicker to reload and get back out on the roads.
3rd item would be to meet with the other state departments and get an outside view of what occurred. I used to live in Portland, OR and we had a situation like this happen 3 years ago and again 3 years before that. The first incident was horrendous but ODOT seemed to learn from their mistakes and the second incident was nowhere near as bad even though the weather was worse.
I am sure that with a thorough review of the situation and all of the complaints that have been heard some good will come of this situation. Thank you for your public reply and for all of your work.

Anonymous said...

I want to say a HUGE thank you to all WSDOT crews, and their families. I live in Glacier and work as a massage therapist in Bellingham. The last 3 weeks have thrown some treacherous road conditions and obstacles our way. Conditions haven't always been great, but I know that you have done the best possible. There has been road crews on that stretch of highway almost around the clock for 3 weeks straight. As a THANK YOU to all DOT emergency crew members, I am offering 50% off all massages, for the month of December. My office, Moon Maiden Massage, is located at 1337 Lincoln Street, Suite 3, Bellingham WA 98229. Phone is 360-319-4929.

Thanks again for all you do.
Misty Dawn

Anonymous said...

I was not stuck on 405. I was stuck on 100th heading North into Bothell. All other side roads avoiding 405 going North were closed. I was listening to the radio and avoided 405 like they said, but I only had 1 alternative, because many of the other roads were closed! Does the DOT map out which roads are closed? Could they announce this to drivers somehow? I would've loved to hear which routes to take on the radio. If we had an alternative public transportation system, this would all be a moot point.

Anonymous said...

Ok, fine. The Crews did all they can with what was given to them to work with. But then that leaves us with they're bosses heads on the block. As it should be anyways.

That was a failure. Plain and simple. I know this may shock some of you but we DO get snow and ice here in the Seattle area from time to time. If we citizens have to be prepared, why shouldn't the people we pay to be prepared.

Could it be King county had it's head too far up Seattle's tunnel?

Anonymous said...

I must say, I was very disappointed, as I encountered icy onramps and offramps right here in Olympia, Hwy 101 @ Black Lake Blvd and SR I-5 at the exit to the Capitol. I would have thought that OR would have done a better job of applying de-icer with all the advance warnings of freezing temperatures. Maybe that's just because I travel through SCR territory so much on my way to family in Yakima.
Thanks for this forum to provide feedback!
For the non-WSDOT employee: OR= Olympic Region, SCR+ South Central Region, responsible for Snoqualmie Pass all the way to Yakima, in addition to other highways.

Anonymous said...

Where do I begin? I have been a resident of Illinois and Wisconsin since I was born back in 1977 and when I visited a childhood friend of mine for a period of a week I was shocked. The main reason I did go to visit was to see the Monday Night Football game. I was shocked at the response from the Washington State Department of Transportation and other drivers on the road. From the time of the games end my friend and I were driving through Seattle and Bellevue with no problems, then we hit the worst of the storm. From the point of departure from the game I didn't see one state vehicle on the roadway either spreading salt, sand, or plowing to try and take care of some of the problems.

During the commute I was also informed at that point that the state isn't ever ready for a snow storm but they tend to wait and have the temperature increase so it just melts naturally.

There were a couple of things that distrubed me and it wasn't with the state, but it was with the drivers and police enforcement attempting to do their job.

I am a 911 dispatcher in the state of Wisconsin and we have had our fair share of "clusters" that stretch our resources to the brink but we have always been able to get through it with very few complaints. My friend and I exited to go to his home in Issaquah and were on a road in a turn lane and suddenly the traffic came to a screaching hault and it turned out that there was an officer directing traffic out of his squad car. That was a positive, but when there was no advance warning of that turn lane being shut down it just made traffic worse because we had to merge into traffic that was already continuing the original direction. The use of flares or using his squad car to block that turn lane and put on the yellow directionals in the rear window instead of where the cars would be after they made the 90 degree turn would have been a great benefit.

The second time was after we made a detour via I-90 and get back onto the side roads there was a point where traffic came to a hault. After approximately 15 minutes of not moving I exited the passenger side of the vehicle walked up to the intersection and there were two vehicles just sitting there - no mechanical problems that were evident. Long story short I asked what they were waiting they said that they were waiting for an officer to tell them to go. The road was clear with the exception of the snow and ice, and after I told them to go, they did. Bear in mind there was no officer to be seen.

Finally the last event that I had to assist was at an intersection of which approximatley three quarters of it was a sheet of ice and there was an officer at the intersection instructing people to take turns going up the hill because someone decided to abandon their vehicle in the traffic lane approximately half way up a decent incline. That was nice to see him helping with the drivers, but where he was having them stop was on the sheet of ice, in turn they needed a push of approximately 20 feet so they could get traction. The officer just stood there which just baffled me, but then I thought maybe the officer's policy/procedure/protocol's state not to help, but ask people to help with the situation because if I didn't take the time to walk up approximatley 30 cars and ask to help, we still might be sitting there.

In all what I would like to say is that I understand that the state wasn't prepared for this storm for what ever reason. Take this incident as a lesson of what can happen and be proactive next time it is on the horizon. I know everything costs money, but from what I have heard this isn't the first time it has happened. The state should be able to impliment a plan of action in the case mother nature does decide to to this again to the State of Washington.

Thank you for your time

catherineku said...

Hello, I work in Bremerton, but live in Bellingham on the week-ends. My comment is not about the Monday night situation, but more a comment about the website information. I would also like to comment on the local media Seattle/metro-centered-response to the snow storm.
First, I am from Minnesota and I know when not to drive. I decided to not drive home from Bellingham on Monday due to the road conditions in Bellingham. However, when I began to look for the road conditions in Kitsap county, I could not find one thing. The t.v. stations focused on Seattle, Marysville and Bellingham.
I would suggest an extra component to your website. You have the cameras in certain areas, but you do not (at least I cannot find) any print explanation of the road conditions - icy, clear, compacted snow, plowed, etc. The camera coverage for the I-5 corridor is extensive, but I would appreciate some information about the peninsula as well.
When I heard that the schools were closed in area, I had to call my friends in Silverdale to ask, "how are the roads?" because I couldn't find an answer anywhere. I was not prepared for this storm - I had no boots, heavy coat or emergency tools, so I stayed the entire week in Bellingham so that I would not end up in a ditch or even worse an accident.

In Minnesota there is a law that states when the windshield wipers are on, so are the lights.
Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concerns.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Secretary MacDonald's comments being posted publicly. However, I am very concerned that the main areas mentioned are only Woodinville and Federal Way. What about I-5 around 145th to 175th, and the mess that caused back through downtown Seattle?

On Monday I left downtown Seattle at 4:45pm. It took 30 minutes to get to the University District, an hour from there to Northgate (3 miles), another hour from Northgate to about 175th (3 miles), and about another 30 minutes home to Mukilteo. Altogether nearly 3 hours to go 24 miles.

I have good snow tires, front-wheel drive, and I know how to drive in snow. I can get myself through just about any snow/ice conditions we might receive in the Seattle area. But the roads were plugged-up with vehicles that did not have traction. I did not see any snow plows working I-5 between Northgate and 175th even though it was snowing hard. People were left to fend for themselves and too many people do not get themselves tires adequate for snow.

I agree with somebody else's comment about needing lots of small plows. This could be 4x4 pickups with a blade that can clear a traffic lane. They would also have a better chance of getting around traffic on the shoulder when needed. It seems like local governments have a lot of small to medium sized trucks for various purposes, which could get plow blades added for those rare times they are needed. I'm not saying WSDOT needs to buy a huge fleet of additional trucks, but the state should coordinate with local governments and probably pay on a contract basis to use those trucks/drivers when needed.

One specific comment I liked from Secretary MacDonald was for DOT management to talk about a situation while it is developing. This needs to be on radio stations, not TV, since everybody stuck in traffic has radio but not TV.

Another specific suggestion is that during any bad weather the DOT web site gets too bogged-down. Sometime, I think Tuesday, they put up a less-featured version of the web site that gave the basic traffic flow maps and let their servers keep giving everybody information. I encourage switching to that lower-impact version of the web site any time the weather and traffic conditions overload the systems.

These problems do happen every time there is more than one inch of snow!!!!!

Dave P.

Anonymous said...

I am very frustrated with the response of the DOT in King Co. on Monday 11/27. My husband and I live in Arlington where we had 10 inches of snow Sunday. We had no problem driving to our doctor appointment Monday from Arlington to Kirkland. We left our appointment at 4:15PM and headed home on 405. We did not get home to Arlington until 3:00 AM. It took us 12 hours to get from Kirkland to the Canyon Creek exit! I am very disappointed in the process or lack of process the people in charge of DOT employed on Monday afternoon. It is not acceptable the lack of response or planning that occurred. It was not a surprise storm, I had heard about the storm coming for a full day before it arrived. As I sat in my car for 12 hours I wondered what would happen to our road system if this was a catastrophe due to a bombing, how would the people be able to use the highway system? There are no plans for emergencies evidently. I hope the DOT managment of King Co. recieve the reviews they deserve from their superiors. I know that in the private sector this would not be tolerated by a boss.

Anonymous said...

I live in Fort Lewis, DuPont area, every time it snows here it is a big deal. I myself from Nebraska for us it is what we get all winter long, another day in winter wonderland. But here in Pacific Northwest it is slide slide on the roads every where you go. We do not need to drive down the hill, we slide down the hill. We do not need to merge into the freeway we slide our way into the trafic.

WSDOT always does good work and keeps the roads pretty clean. City and county roads are always a mess and we all can hope the cities do the same quality work that WSDOT does it on the highways. Keep up the good work. Lets pray to Snow Gods that there is no more snow days in puget sound this season. we had our share of the white stuff.

Here's a few funny thingies, because sometimes my life is just plain hilarious...

By the way, I can predict the news for the next 30 days:

1. It is cold!
2. There’s trouble in the Middle East!
3. The stock market is down, just like before every christmas!
4. Cars that will never come to market get great mileage!

But I’m just guessing.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Seattle for 17 years until about a year ago. Lived in Kenmore, near the I-405/SR-522 interchange. There were a number of times this area, specifically the overpasses, suffered from icing. So I have a suggestion for areas of this kind which suffer icing "regularly".

Would it be possible to install a de-icing system along the side of the ramps - something which could be activated without a need to have a vehicle physically present? Hot water might be sufficient for many instances, but surely some type of de-icing agent (liquid, at least) would be possible. And, of course, the plumbing system to deliver it would need to be kept safe from errant vehicles.

Bill said...

RE: Web traffic map

This message is meant as a possible improvement to your already excellent web traffic map service.
I think the WSDOT is doing a great job.
Last Monday night November 27 we had friends from Seattle visiting us for dinner. Prior to their leaving to drive home, my friend and I checked your web page to check road conditions. This was our first visit to the traffic map. Unfortunately we were in a hurry and did not look closely at the legend indicating meaning of the colors representing traffic conditions. We incorrectly thought RED color meant the worst traffic congestion; yellow moderate; green wide open. In our haste we overlooked the legend indicating that BLACK color indicated stop and go traffic, even worse than RED. So because of our inattention to your web page details (yes, this was our fault), our friends spent several hours stopped in exactly the predicted BLACK sections of I-5.
It could be that others might also mistakenly conclude that RED indicates the worst traffic and overlook the BLACK indicators. Psychologically, humans view RED as a warning symbol, BLACK as a neutral or background color. You may want to consider changing the colors used to indicate traffic problems.

Anonymous said...

All I know is I live in the Shorline/Edmonds area and down the bottom of a very large hill. the FIRST time i saw any equipment in my area trying to take care of the roads was at 6:30 Tuesday night after everything was freezing again. I had to travle up 185 from Richmond Beach to get to the Freeway and evey wednesday at 8 it was still a mess out here. Thursday was Iced over as well!! and that was AFTER putting down the sand/salt mixture. I didn't even see a Metro bus for days! IF they can't come down we can't get up! (as yall know they have chains!) Since i also feel this happens regularly the DOT really needs to be on top of this. Deice the freeways, expense or not. One Fatality is one to many if you ask me.
I will say that closing many of the interchanges was a good idea until they got a better idea of what they were dealing with. I'm sure that saved both cars and lives.

Steve said...

First, thanks for the letter. I am impressed with your detailed response, and for that matter, the hard work that you and your crews did. Bravo!

Second, from watching the traffic reports, the worst of the traffic jams had little to do with snow and more to do with drivers. The I-5 at 175th closure (3 lanes), the I-405 at 527 closure (all lanes!)... due to poor driving. It only takes ONE car to cause a major highway to become blocked.

The roads I drove on Tuesday were fine. Even slippery roads aren't that hard to navigate - if you remember to drive carefully.

One thing I would suggest is arranging for weatherized tow-trucks to be standing by all over the area (especially near highways), in order to clear the blockages faster. I think that would have helped clear the congestion more than "more snowplows." (That and a hefty fine for the people who cause these accidents by driving recklessly.)

Remember kids, if you don't know how to drive in the snow/ice, stay home. No, i don't care if you have AWD/4WD/snow tires/chains - in fact, you're the ones who get into accidents because you think you are invincible.

OK, done with the rant - thank you again, Secretary MacDonald, for your letter. You are a fine example of a public servant, and I commend you.

Susan said...

I think a big case of mass denial caused most of the traffic problems. We think it will just melt off or it won't be as bad as the weatherpeople said. Wrong!

Not me, man! I remember sleeping on bubble wrap in my office in the storm of 1990. I ran like a scared bunny as soon as snow started falling at my office in Renton--and since I live next to the 405-522 interchange, it turned out to be a good move. The sun was shining in Kirkland, but my neighborhood was like Ice Planet Hoth!

I know DOT does a good job and I can usually depend on getting where I'm going if I can just get off my hill. That things got so bad is a testament to the ferocity of the storm and its freezing aftermath.(I didn't leave my house for two days).

My husband works in the North Creek Business Park. I suggested at 4:00 that he come home, but he is a full-fledged Northwest Practitioner of Denial and thought he would escape any problems because he didn't need to get on the freeway. He was trapped in the business park until 9:30 that night. He didn't need to go on the freeway, but those who did were blocking the loop road in the park.

A bad storm, overwhelmed DOT crews, and people who think nothing bad should ever happen to them (and want to blame someone else when it does)are to blame for the mess. I know DOT will make some changes. Too bad everyone else probably won't!

Susan said...

I know WSDOT will make some changes the next time we have a big snow storm. Too bad everyone else probably won't. Lots of people here, my husband included, seem to practice a form of denial that insists nothing bad will ever happen to them, and if it does, it's someone else's fault.

I remember the storm of 1990. I slept on bubble wrap under my desk at my office. So I listened when the weatherpeople said we were going to get a snowstorm last Monday afternon. I left my office like a scared bunny as soon as I saw it. I had appropriate clothing, all the emergency supplies, chains, etc., but I have NO desire to "rough it" on the freeway!

The weather was pretty calm until I hit my neighborhood at the 405-522 intersection at about 3pm. It was like landing on a different planet--Ice Planet Hoth, that is!My husband works at the North Creek Business Park at 522 & 405. I suggested at 4pm that he come home. He is a practitioner of Northwest Denial, and his route home does not require getting on the freeway, so he stayed. And stayed. And stayed--because he couldn't get out of the business park! The loop road inside the business park was completely backed up with people trying to get on the freeway. He finally made it out at 9:30pm.

Is it WSDOT's fault? I sure don't think so. I stayed home for two days and watched on TV, totally bemused by the temerity of people who thought even the weather was not powerful enough to impact their schedules. WSDOT was like the Old Woman in the Shoe (who had so many children she didn't know what to do)--in a snowstorm. I think they did the best they could, but the kids just weren't cooperating!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so DOT did a terrible job, the weather was a surprise, drivers are stupid and don’t know how to drive, it took some people 14 hours to get home Monday night. At least the environmental whackos in this state haven’t stopped us from being able to use salt / deicer on the roads.

Maybe this is part of the problem or could be some of the solution. I have heard that the WSDOT Maintenance budget has not changed for more than 3 years. (Yes, you say what about that 10 cent gas tax we stood up for…that’s all for new projects or improvements) So each year the maintenance has more traffic, older roads and new capacity to take care of with the same amount of money. Maybe, this is their year to finally fail at keeping things up and the legislature will give them more funds to work with. Ah, but then you say we will just have to be taxed even more. Well, the legislature has a nice little trick up their sleeves. You see all that new gas tax goes to build projects. Well the state then turns around and taxes those projects that are getting built. But you see all of that new tax generated goes into the GENERAL FUND not back to the roads, which is where we the people said we wanted that tax to go.

So maybe we can give that tax back to the roads and not have to have a judgment call to place sand/salt instead of the deicer because the budget can have a little bit of room to play with. Now, I am not talking about wasting tax money but maybe the DOT would not have to be such penny pinchers during storms that have a very high likelihood of being terrible. We could even get some money to place a few more small yards with sand and deicer and those smaller plows would be a great added benefit as well.

Last comments:
WSDOT you did a fair job with what you had to deal with, you probably could have done better, but it could have been a lot worse. I am sure the real workers (not managers) were putting forth every bit of effort they could. Drivers, learn to drive in the snow, be prepared, or just stay home. And to the legislature STOP STEALING the taxes that are specified for roads to give to what ever you want.

Anonymous said...

I felt that the response was about average. I do have a question about how to not get an inch thick solid ice. This continues to be I feel in the part where there is a problem on State Routes on City streets. More of a question. IF you brought the snow plows out earlier, would it have decreased the thickness of the ice?

jc knettles said...

It appeared that the SR 522 was the forgotten step-child in your efforts to ensure safe travel. I am aware of some drivers getting stuck in traffic for more than 6 hours on this route, only to get word that the route was closed. This is a failure in your system.

I lived in Colorado for seven years and never witnessed this happen. In that state, when a snow storm is forecast, the snow plows, de-icers, and sanders are up and ready on every major road. Similarly, it snows here every winter. WSDOT ought to be equipped and prepared for a snow storm of this magnitude. It currently is not.

Anonymous said...

when are you going to clean-up the mess???

You spread sand and other de-icing/traction material all-over many State Highways.

Now four days have passed and I haven't seen a single street-sweeper out cleaning-up the dangerous levels of sand. I ride a motorcycle year 'round and these sand accumulations are extremely dangerous to fuel-efficient commuters and recreational riders.

Are you waiting for a good rain so it will clog the storm drains and you'll have another major endeaver on your hands when the roads flood?

Come-on, you did a decent enough job with the snow and ice, how about cleraning it up!!!

Anonymous said...

Having spent most of my life in the Northeast, I'll give WSDOT the benefit of the doubt for what happened on Monday evening. (And unlike some of the other commentors, I found the cautious drivers on Monday evening between Bellevue and Renton to be mostly responsible for the length of my commute.) But there is no excuse for how the roads looked on Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, I went from Bellevue to Tacoma and back (on I-405 and I-5) and the conditions on the highways were very patchy -- great near Bellevue, Tacoma, and the 405/5 interchange, but a mess everywhere else. You could tell where the problem spots were the evening before. There was deicer down in spots, but no plows to clear the slush and ice from the lanes. Considering the low temperatures, I'm surprised that this mix wasn't being dealt with more aggressively before it could cause more problems.

One of the other commentors mentioned the lacking use of headlights by drivers during the storm. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about the Seattle area. Many drivers turn their wipers on without turning their lights on. Even with daytime running lights, drivers need to turn their lights on because daytime running lights refer only to headlights, not tail lights. There should be signs up reminding drivers about "Wipers On, Lights On"--there are many roadways across the country with such signs. Also, the traffic announcers on the radio and TV could also remind drivers about turning their lights on if it's raining or snowing out.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Anonymous said...

My commute that day was from Totem Lake to just off the first exit of 522 on the Bothell/Woodinville border. I believe it's approximately 5 miles from door to door. I left my office at approximately 5:05 pm. I walked in the door of my home at 9:25 pm. Was it the DOT'S fault that it took me 4 1/2 hours to get home? Probably not, I'm sure no one could have foreseen what a nightmare that was - however - I do believe that 522 could have been cleared and de-iced more quickly, based on the number of non-emergency vehicles that used the shoulder to get to that point. If a guy in a truck can ride the shoulder from Kirkland to 522, an emergency vehicle definately should have been able to make that happen. However, I do realize that people actually drive those vehicles, and it's a tough call as to how to get road crews where and when.

I don't know that I feel right blaming the DOT for Mother Nature's wrath. :o) I do know that at the very least, everyone learned a lesson that day. Mine was never drive on a half tank of gas when the weather is questionable!

Anonymous said...

I have one suggestion for WSDOT next time it snows. Go ahead and plow the main interstates, if necessary, but please, PLEASE, leave the arterials in the residing neighborhoods alone.

I live on a big hill in South King County. Before the city came by and plowed my road, folks were using the rutts made by previous 4x4 vehicles to get up the hill with no problem. Once the city came along and plowed the 5+" of snow, no one could get up the hill. The compacted ice below the powdery snow was now full exposed, causing all the cars without chains to not be able to get any traction whatsoever.

The same is true around town. If the accumulation of snow is not enough to warrant a plow, i.e. snow impacting the undercarriage of a vehicle, don't plow!! It just makes it worse. Also, the additional benefit is the savings to your budget, and ultimately, our tax dollars.

Sound good?

Sanding works, plowing, in Western WA on sidestreets, is unneccessary. If it's still used, please try to use as little rock salt on the roadways if possible. This stuff is very damaging to the environment once washed away from the roadways into encompassing streams. It's also very damaging to vehicle's undercarriages.

Anonymous said...

It seems that most people I know that were stuck on the streets were the ones that treated their work day as business as usual. It did not take me more than twenty minutes extra to get home because when I saw the snow start to fall and read the weather reports about the possible snow storm, I left work early to get safely home. I'm from Idaho and am perfectly capable of driving through the worst of snow storms but having experienced a couple winters here I know how people around here drive in the snow and know our limited number of resources for clearing snow and ice. A large number of people did not seem to remember the disabling effect snow can have on the city. When I left, there were still plenty of people working away at their desks. In the past, I have not seen this. I believe this is because there were less warnings to people being broadcast and I heard no suggestion of people leaving early or strong advice of people not leaving their houses Monday night. Every other year I have been here, there has been warnings like this even when the chances are of large amounts of snow are low. I see the main failure in the lack of a strong warning to the public. I also see it as a lack in the public to recognize snow and remember the disabling affect it has on the city. This should have been warning enough for them to get out early and head home and stay there. It just doesn't snow enough for people to be good drivers in the snow or for us to invest large amounts of resources to clear off all the snow and ice. So the drivers just need to get off the roads and stay home.

Anonymous said...

I work in Bellevue and live in Mill Creek. I am used to an hour commute, but was not at all prepared for my 7 hour commute Monday night. The worst part of it was that there was no radio coverage stating what the problem was ("It is a parking lot out there" is all I heard). Obviously there was snow and ice, but no word was given to traveling commuters as to where the worst problems were, or how to possibly get around them. It took me two hours to get from Totem lake to the 522 exit (not my original intended exit, but I was tired of not moving anywhere). Believe me I wish I had gotten off at 160th instead. No one said that 405 was a sheet of ice as you entered Bothell. There was no warning to drivers that staying on the freeway (where I would expect it to be safest with all the heat from vehicals) would actually be worst due to all of the car trying to manuver over ice and running into eachother. The feeling of helplessness and no idea how much longer I would be on the road was the worst part. I was starving and thirsty and believe me I needed to use the ladies room! I know it is not your fault directly, I have to believe you were trying your best, but I really feel that getting information out to the public who is stuck in a disaster like that needs to be put higher on your priority list. Thank you for taking the time to respond and I only hope that you take the time to listen to everyone and take ideas into consideration so an event like that will never happen again...and if it does, at least everyone will be a little more prepared.

Anonymous said...

Terrible in the Bothell/Woodinville area. 405 and 522 were a joke. DOT dropped the ball!

Don Mo said...

I would suggest that WSDOT use the Incident Command System (ICS) that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources uses for the forest fire responses. ICS is used nationally where resources can be located, prepositioned and coordinated with other federal, tribal, state and local jurisdictions, including the military. The funding and reimbursement infrastructure is already set up, as well as the various command communication channels.

The Spokane Tribe used this system during the surprise October 1991 Spokane Fire Storm and coordinated medical, police, fire and highway equipment with a predetermined process which was developed during various practice incidents and we did invite the local Spokane media to film our "disaster days"

Look beyond the DOT boarders and coordinate with your other departments and other government partners.

Anonymous said...

How about telling people that if they want to get on the freeway during a snow storm, they better have some kind of traction device...and turn away the ones that do not, just like they do on the pass.

Anonymous said...

can someone explain this. why didn't metro have special events running for monday night football ? it couldn't have been a lack of buses, as several dozen were parked under 1-90 at the lot near both stadiums. this obviously had no impact on the problems in early afternoon leaving the urban core. but it seems part of the mission of metro is to get people out of their cars and into buses.

Lori said...

I work in Renton and live in Tacoma; it took 7 hours for me to go from work to home a total of 39 miles. The DOT needs to be better prepared, when you can't see the field at Qwest during the kick-off of the Monday night football, it might have been a good idea to do something-anything!! I made it home with out incident however I can not say that for the young Mom with small child who ran out of gas even though she started with a full tank. For the elderly gentleman who had to abandon his car and the examples go on and on...The were not messages on any of the traffic stations as I traveled down I-5, no messages on 511, nothing to guide or assist people. The storm is not to blame, poor planning and preparation is!

Anonymous said...

Ever think about getting some kind of grating that you can put on bridges instead of chemicals. It wouldnt take much to keep the ice off the grates, even below freezing the ice breaks off cause it isnt able to build a base. For the cost of 285k to deice one bridge you'd think that you could supply grating that is reusable for several bridges!

Anonymous said...

This is just another case of big government run amuck and showing their true colors of complete incompetence. If the Secretary won't do it, then Governer Gregoire needs to fire the DOT weatherman and his boss, and then this crap probably won't happen again. All three Seattle TV weather teams had this storm predicted to the 1/2 hour for about 3 days, so there is NO excuse. We need a head on a plate for this to restore any shred of confidence in our elected/appointed.

As far as the cost of all the gear and de-icer, what the heck are we paying an extra 9cent gas tax for ( the one we didn't even get to vote for )?

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that prior to living in the Seattle area I lived in Yakima and Pullman for a little over six years between the two. During my time in these areas I have transversed Snoqualmie pass in freezing snow and rain, I have also traveled up to Spokane after over a foot of snow falls on the ground. I may not be the best driver in the world but I know that when it comes to snow and ice on the roadways you need to slowdown. There are two things that I saw that I was quite disappointed with. The first was the lack of DEICER's. I know that salt is not used over here, however, I have been over snoqualmie pass in when temperatures are in the teens after a heavy storm and the roads are bare and wet. The I-405, WA167 and I-5 were in quite dissaray. I am dissappointed in the DOT for saying using the excuse that we are not use to this. I find this hard to believe, as a child growing up in Everett there were times when 6+ inches of snowfall would occur. I know a lot of the conditions had to do with the drivers on the roadways getting in accidents and what not, and that is a completely different animal in itself, Highway Patrol needs to handle that issue. DOT needs to realize that at any time during the winter snow may fall in the seattle area, and as beautiful as it is you have a huge number of people needing to get to the metropolitan area. The public transportation is improving but it is nowhere near the caliber it needs to be to allow for mass commuting into or around the city and so the daily commuter is faced with icy roadways and conditions that cause other drivers to lose control. ICE MELTING IS MY MAIN CONCERN! WHY WASN'T THE ICE METLED AT TEMPERATURES OF 25 DEGREES that is warm considering the mountain roads and passes stay clear at much lower temperatures.

Thank you.

Marc, Issaquah, WA said...

I think my thoughts can be summed up in one word: Ugh! I-90 into Issaquah was a mess. It took me more than 5 hours to get home and I only live 5 minutes off the highway. With that said, I think there could be changes to improve the response.
(1) I wish there was better communications with the general public. I couldn't find a radio station that talked about what was being done to help the situation. I would recommend that the WSDOT send out emergency messages all radio stations in this type of event.
(2) I wish there were more government officials on the roads helping local authorities solve this problem. I don't know what to recommend here, but if this performance is reflective of how the Washington government reacts in times of emergency, I don't know if I have faith that the Washington government can handle a disaster event (earthquake, tsunami, etc.) I don't think anyone had a good picture of what was going on, and no one was coordinating with local police authorities. This is a management issue.

Anonymous said...

I think the WSDOT does a fantastic job. Does anyone think about just what the employees of the WSDOT give up just to keep our roads safe to drive? I know that many of them volunteered to work Thanksgiving so you all could have a turkey dinner with your family. Many of the WSDOT employees did not have a Thanksgiving holiday. So, while you are driving home from work, the mall, or where ever, you should be thanking the men and women at the WSDOT that they took care of the roads,so that you could get to your destination in the first place. Give 'em a brake.

Anonymous said...

I have read some very good points made about the recent weather and all the traffic nightmares. I live in South Marysville and I am currently commuting just about everywhere, from Arlington to Redmond and everywhere in between. It would be helpful if you expanded your traffic camera coverage and flowmaps to at least through Marysville on the north and on the east side of its borders along hwy 9 up to the 522 interchange. I have noticed since moving here from Everett, that they get ignored mostly--on the radio when it comes to reporting on road conditions and traffic volumes. I have been trying to use 9 as an alternate route to travel to Kirkland and its frustating when you get on it and get stuck in big traffic backups. I know they are currently widening in the area of 524 to 522 which will help alleviate some of this problem but with another 300,000 people expected to move into the north end of Snohomish County mainly Marysville north to Arlington it would be nice to know that the residents that live in this fast growing area, were included in the grand traffic assesment. I also wanted to comment on the good job done with the sanding and plowing of the roads. Most of the accidents that I saw were due to driver inabilities and not driving according to conditions. I will say that you have to be asking for an accident if you drive at night or weathered conditions without you lights on. I encountered several that I couldn't see until I was practically on top of them because they didn't have there lights on (maybe the DOL needs to implement an IQ test as part of the driver test) it might help.

Anonymous said...

I think the DOT does a great job. Whatever they do is gravy people who live in Seattle and the NW it is your responsiblity to have snow tires in the winter time and to be prepared for the worst.

Anonymous said...

My main comment is that the police should have done a much better job blocking dangerous roads. It would have prevented accidents. I had a near-miss myself when I drove onto the ramp connecting I405 to rt522. The ramp was a solid sheet of ice and practically impassable (I got lucky). There was a police car out ON the ramp, but he SHOULD have blocked all access to the ramp. I also had a friend who spun out on a dangerous hill that should have been blocked to all traffic - several other people spun out and had to abandon their cars as well. Blocking the road would have prevented the accidents.

Anonymous said...

I think you guys could have done better, given the resources.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the crews that worked so hard - DOT did the best they could with the equipment and funding they have allocated to deal with a snow storm that doesn't happen that often.

Anonymous said...

It was a group effort - many people made mistakes, and many people did good things.

I left my work in Remond at 5 PM and didn't get home to Lynnwood until 3:30 AM via I-405. That is just cruel. No chains on the buses (one of the buses I was on jack-knifed), people driving irresponsibly on the roads (don't hit the gas when you are in the ice), and no support in the form of salt, gravel, or plows on the road. It snowed in Lynnwood the previous weekend and if that isn't enough of a clue to get ready for a winter storm then I don't know what is.

DOT should have been better prepared and ready to deploy (even over-deploy) to prevent the kind of snafu that happened on Monday night/Tuesday.

Eastern Washington Resident said...

Until you've worked side by side with with WSDOT (i.e as a law enforcement officer) you have no clue as to what these great people do, and the conditions they have to put up with. Many comments have stated you can't legislate stupidity and how right they are! This storm was no surprise and yet the multitudes consciously chose to drive anyway while low on fuel with inappropriate cold weather clothing, lack of vehicle supplies (read TIRE CHAINS folks), and absolutely no clue how to handle slick roads. The solution is simple - if you don't know how to drive in the winter - STAY HOME! The Secretary really owes no comments to ANYONE - it's the rest of the idiots that owe their fellow drivers an explanation of why they never learned common sense. GREAT JOB WSDOT !! There's not enough money in the state budget for me to want to do your job.

Anonymous said...

This is somewhat off topic, but was my experience during the storm. Luckily, I was not caught in the endless backups, but heard about them on the radio. My problem on Monday and Tuesday (and many other high traffic days, like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), is that the WSDOT Web server appears to not have enough capacity to handle all the commuters trying to see how traffic conditions are. When we need it the most, the web site does not respond and becomes useless. I depend heavily on this excellent resource to plan my commute, so I become very frustrated when it is not available. Conceptually, this is an easy problem to solve (add more servers), but seems to have been missed for the last few years. Hopefully, WSDOT can upgrade this tool so that it can be available when we need it the most.

Anonymous said...

Thank you DOT. One favor, please turn up the street lights!

Anonymous said...

Why is Worshington so Travel Unfriendly? Twice I have driven through Seattle and found the traffic to be unbearable. This time it snowed, like it does every year, maybe a little more all at once, but not a blizzard for sure. And nothing was done to maintain the safety of the road. The major North/South highway for the whole westcoast, the I-5 was left to the forces of nature. It accumulated the snow and rain and predictably froze over and the snow was compacted by the cars drivinig over it. Within a very short time it was a thick sheet of ice. While driving home Kelly and I saw numerous cars slide off the road. Those were the lucky ones. Some just kept spinning until another car hit them or they slammed into the cement divider. We saw one car spin out of control and fish tail for quite some time it seemed. I thought he was going to make it off the highway but right before he got to the edge of the road he was struck by a Semi. It all happened in slow motion and I am sure the people were not horribly hurt. But it seems like all these accidents were unnecessary. The Washington State Department of Transportation should have done the necessary salting and sanding and plowing of the roads. Only after the road became an ice rink did they sort of scrape the top of the ice and make the motions like they were plowing. Way too little too late. We decided to stay in a hotel to avoid the I-5 Ice Capades. All the other stranded travelers were annoyed by the roads, the Canadians in particular who had driven down from BC with clear roads until they got across the border and saw the mess that WS DOT allowed to accumulate. Some proud Canadians were boasting that they pay their taxes and the government makes sure the major highways are safe to drive. Not a bad idea. Sure I only paid $2.49 a gallon for gas in Washington. What a deal! But I spent over $250 for a hotel. pizza and an extra day on the rental car. I guess that is how Washington gets its revenue, by stranding travelers and making them stay in their hotels. It wouldn't be so sinister if we were all safe and only annoyed by the delay. But all those travelers lives were at risk on that highway. It should have been shut down or required cars to have chains or all wheel drive to travel at least. I knew I was capable of driving on the ice because I was being cautious and had all wheel drive. But I couldn't guarantee other cars wouldn't slide into me. Washington State sucks. I would rather fly over it in the future than ever spend another dollar there.

Anonymous said...

TOo much compassion, not enough action. The "compassionate" and long-winded response by WSDOT was all very well and good, but the bottom line is we need action. We need MORE EQUIPMENT - more plows and sanding equipment, and the excuse that this may only happen once per year is simply unacceptable. People can die from not being able to get to the hospital because of blocked streets. There is no excuse for this. Seattle people have demonstrated a history of willingness to reach into their pocketbooks and pay for needed infrastructure, more than a lot of other places, so let's just do it. Let's get 100 new snowplows and 100 new sanding machines and no more excuses!

Anonymous said...

I was stuck in traffic going from Redmond to Bothell (520 W to 405 N) for SEVEN HOURS on Monday. That is simply unacceptable. It's a 20 minute drive on any other night. WSDOT didn't make the necessary preparations or fix the issues happening on the roads at the time. I'm just lucky I had a full tank of gas! Seriously, though, what are we paying taxes to WSDOT for?

Jeremy said...

Wow, I can't believe people are complaining! The thought didn't even enter my head. At least I'm happy to see that most of the comments I read here are positive. And the WSDOT letter was very good!

This is Seattle! I know they can't have tons of equipment at hand for every time a major storm hits ONCE per year, AT most!

I grew up in Eastern Washington, so I know how to drive in snow and ice. I agree with those that put most the blame on the people! Well, the situation had a lot to do with it, too. But I don't really think the WSDOT could have done any better -- they gave it their all with everything they had.

We don't have endless resources in a place that hardly has to deal with snow.

I commend all the people that paid attention, adjusted their schedule, handled it well. I work in Redmond and live on Capitol hill. Traffic out of redmond at 5 pm was ridiculous. So, I waited until 8 pm and my trip home was FINE! And took only 30 minutes!

Traffic was and is always the problem, not the roards. All those people in their cars that don't know how to actually drive them!

Angela said...

We are always going to have transportation problems, no matter how many billions we spend on snow plows or adding highway lanes, as long we keep developing further away from urban centers. WSDOT can be a convenient punching bag for transportation frustrations, but they are not the ones driving surburban sprawl or choosing long commutes. We are making those decisions ourselves.
We might need more snowplows also, but to me this really sounds the call for long-term solutions like great region-wide mass transit and a real focus on creating urban density.

Anonymous said...

The traffic was a mess during the recent snow storm and cold weather but I feel the DOT did a better job with this storm than they have with past storms. I found roads sanded and in places de-iced. I have been through worse storms in past years when nothing was done. I appreciated their efforts.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say, for most folks whom said the storm was forcasted 3 days in advance. you should have made better choices. take responsibility for yourself,don't expect big brother to be your keeper. you chose to be out in those condictions, no one made you.

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