Seattle Snow – Cause For Panic?

Why People in Seattle Lose Their Minds When It Snows  

This is written especially for all of my friends back in Minnesota, land of my youth.  They must wonder what collective insanity seems to hit people in the Seattle megalopolis when snow hits. But there is a bit more to it.

Snow is not snow. I recall reading decades ago that Eskimos have 97 different words for “snow.”  I have no idea if that is true, but it makes sense to me.  The snow we have here is far different than the snow I grew up with.

I have fond memories of driving in the snow in high school. The car I got to drive was a 1959 Hillman, equipped with studded snow tires.  To leave my home on Libb’s Lake Road you drove about ¼ of a mile to the main road.  Just before the stop sign there was a short but steep hill.  The technique was to romp up the hill and then pitch the car to the right as you reached the stop sign, as the car slowed.  If you did this correctly, you could look to your left as you reached the top, and if there was no traffic you could let the car ease onto the main road and turn right (I pretty much never needed to turn left).  If traffic was coming you would stop, and then rely on the studded rear tires and the 60 or so horses of the Hillman to get going again.  I never had an accident caused by snow, which is not to say I never had an accident…

When it snows in Seattle the temperature is usually close to freezing, and often meandering a few degrees above or below, often several times over a two- or three-day period. And sometimes there is rain. This creates multiple layers of ice and snow and water and ice and snow – a cake that reduces traction to where even walking down your driveway is perilous.  Because this does not happen every year, people seem to drive faster than they should, as if reducing the time spent driving will make it safer.  It does not.

Today the majority of people have at their disposal a four-wheel drive vehicle, often with AMS brakes. Because they have 4WD, they think they have traction anywhere, and if trouble occurs, they can simply stomp on the pedal and the ABS brakes will stop the car.  Neither of these is true on glare ice, so times like these must be the high holy days for repair shops.  Probably a migraine for insurance adjusters, who are not allowed to tell a client “if you had a clue about driving on snow and ice this would not have happened.”

There are other issues that impact us as well.  The snow that falls tends to be extremely moist, and thus heavy.  This leads to power outages and downed trees all over, and some of the trees have the poor taste to penetrate the roof of the house.

Because snow is not an annual occurrence, local governing bodies cannot justify massive sums of tax dollars in infrastructure.  There are few snowplows, and a sanding truck might get to your street – never.

So, there you have it. Today the locals are trying to find an excuse to leave work, as the snow is about to begin… again.  Grocery stores yesterday were pretty much stripped bare of milk and bread and eggs and beer – the basic food groups. 

The amusing final touch is that our weather is extremely hard to predict.  Great weather forecasters want to work here for the challenge. Others opt for Los Angeles, where the weather forecast resembles a looped film.  As a result, the “snowmageddon” that everyone talks about at times never arrives, and then people vent their fury at the hapless weatherfolk, fooled by Mom Nature again.

I can hope for that this time…

Copyright 2019                     David Preston

PS: Use your computer to access my website at, as I am told the entire home page will not show on many cell phones.  There you will find all sorts of things, and links to allow you to purchase any (or all) of my 8 books from Amazon.  If you are home-bound for a bit, this would be a good way to spend your time. Spring is coming…eventually.

About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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