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December 2, 2013 at 1:32 PM
UPDATED 4:20 P.M | The West Seattle Bridge reopened this afternoon, following nearby crashes that were blamed by police on road de-icer.
Three cars spun out on the curve next to the Nucor steel mill, where eastbound traffic turns downhill toward the high bridge, said Steve Pratt, road-maintenance director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.
The crashes happened shortly after a midday application of salt solution de-icer.
“The only thing I can assume is, perhaps the (road) deck is a little too warm,” Pratt said.
Pratt said the city was trying to treat the bridge corridor before tonight’s Seahawks game and afternoon rush hour, and SDOT was hearing reports that a cold front would reach the city by 1 p.m.
He was thinking about Nov. 22, 2010, when freezing rain stranded cars on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and road crews couldn’t salt the road decks because the stalled traffic was blocking them. So on Monday, he said he wanted to get a jump on the forecast freeze.
“I’m going to put this in the category of ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ ” he said.
City officials also blamed high car speed for the wrecks. The posted limit is 40 mph near the steel mill and 45 mph on the bridge.
Pratt, who was doing other work in West Seattle at the time, said he drove onto the high bridge from the Delridge Way onramp, trouble free. But when crashes began, the police closed the entire high bridge route, including the Delridge onramp, as an apparent precaution.
SDOT has used salt solution for more than three years and has never had a problem like this.
The de-icer used Monday is called FreezGard, an opaque brown liquid containing magnesium chloride. It takes five to 10 minutes to crystallize on the pavement, said Pratt. Meantime, it goes on slightly slippery, “particularly if vehicles are exceeding the posted speed limit,” said SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. Many years ago, the curve at the steel mill wasn’t treated at all, so that when vapor from the steel mill condensed, a sheet of ice invariably caused spin-outs on any frosty morning.
Usually, the city applies salt solution overnight. Just before noon Monday, the air was 43 degrees and the road deck 38 degrees, said Pratt.
He said the city will think twice before applying salt solution in the daytime. Another idea that’s been discussed is a rolling slowdown, where a vehicle behind the de-icing truck slows the drivers behind it for several minutes.
Crashes occurred between noon and 1 p.m. The bridge reopened to traffic in both directions around 3 p.m., after crews dropped sand to improve traction.
The city has applied liquid salt compound since December 2009, following the city’s slow ice response in December 2008 when SDOT under then-mayor Greg Nickels avoided salt, and some streets took days to thaw.
January 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM
An Edmonds man was killed in a 150-foot fall from a rock cliff in Grant County Sunday.
Grant County Coroner Craig Morrison identified the victim Monday as Robert Andrew Prosser, 60.
Morrison said Prosser and a companion had come to a canyon about nine miles north of Coulee City to do ice-climbing on sheer canyon walls that are popular with climbers from around the state.
Morrison said it was not clear whether Prosser was on an icy surface when he fell shortly after 1 p.m. He died at the scene from head and chest injuries, the coroner said.
January 13, 2013 at 5:51 AM
Now that a genuine “Seattle freeze” has arrived, Kent Fire Department Capt. Kyle Ohashi offers survival tips for people who find themselves attracted to frosty lakes and ponds.
Lesson one is, don’t walk out on them, because the ice likely won’t support the weight of a human being. Pets can go out farther than their owners, who would break through the ice trying to retrieve a pet. In Minnesota, where people do safely skate and fish on lakes, resource officials say the ice needs to be at least two inches thick.
If someone does break through into icy waters, bystanders ought to:
* Call 9-1-1 immediately.
* Throw a rope or flotation device, while trying not to send additional people onto the thin ice.
* Understand that someone can lose consciousness in 10-15 minutes, or suffer hypothermia far sooner.
* Take off wet clothing and dry the victim until paramedics arrive – but do not place the person in a hot bath or shower.
In Seattle, Kent and surroundings, the National Weather Service forecast calls for lows of around 30 degrees all week.
More information is linked here from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
January 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM
If you’re looking for proof that icy roads lead to fender benders, consider this: Washington State Patrol troopers responded to about 10 times more car collisions than usual this weekend.
In all, troopers filed reports on 553 crashes in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Skagit, Whatcom and Island Counties counties on Saturday and Sunday, according to the agency.
Last weekend, they responded to 58.
Weather is doubtlessly to blame, officials said.
Trooper Guy Gill first tweeted about the higher rate of collisions early Monday morning.
“Over the last 2 days troopers in Thurston and Pierce Co’s have handled 157 collisions. Remember my simple equation…Snow+Ice+Speed=Crash,” he wrote.
The tweet prompted us to compare that number to the number that division usually handles (14 last weekend, Gill said) and to request numbers for other Western Washington counties as well.
The spike is normal for the first snowfall of the season, officials said.
“The lesson for folks is to pack their patience and get their vehicles ready,” Trooper Keith Leary said. “And if they’re planning to venture out, take it slow. That’s slow in capital letters with an explanation mark.”
January 16, 2012 at 9:06 AM
While most major Puget Sound roadways were wet and bare during the early commute Monday morning, officials cautioned that there are some slick areas — especially on side streets and highway ramps, and on major roads through Everett and Marysville.
A bigger concern for drivers may be the afternoon commute and conditions over the next few days, as much more snow is expected, said Marybeth Turner, a spokeswomanfor the city’s department of transportation. Turner said officials will meet to come up with a plan later this morning.
For now, officials recommended drivers go slowly and be mindful of conditions, which could change quickly.
“We really encourage people to drive for the conditions and reduce their speed,” Washington Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Olsen said.
In Seattle, just six roads were partially closed at 8:30 a.m., said Turner: First Avenue; 23rd Avenue South and South McClellan Street; South Spokane Street and South Columbia Way; South Holgate Street and Beacon Avenue South; South Holgate Street and 14th Avenue South; and East Denny Way and Melrose Avenue).
Eighteen city crews worked throughout the night, when many more roads had been closed, Turner said. The crews are still out using granular salt and liquid de-icer to make the roads safer.
Turner directed residents to the city’s new snow response route map, which shows which roads that crews have worked on most recently.
January 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Uh, oh, the city is preparing for snow this weekend. Does that mean it actually could snow? (Many of you would like that, based on our poll from yesterday.)
This is from a statement put out by Marybeth Turner with Seattle’s Department of Transportation:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will have Street Maintenance crews on standby for snow response this weekend and early next week due to a forecast of possible snow showers below 500 feet.
Throughout this week Street Maintenance crews have been treating areas prone to roadway frost and ice to improve conditions for drivers, and will continue this operation while nighttime temperatures remain low. SDOT will also continue to carefully monitor weather forecasts.
You can also keep abreast of events by using the city’s new SnowWatch Web site.
The city reminds residents and businesses to keep their sidewalks free of ice and snow for pedestrian safety. More information about SDOT’s winter storm strategy, including a map of streets that will be treated during a storm, please visit this city website.
November 9, 2011 at 11:32 AM
After being humbled by 2008 and 2010 road freezes that paralyzed the city’s transportation network, Seattle officials say they’ve learned some lessons for the expected heavy snows this winter.
The city has bought magnesium chloride brine, which is supposed to melt ice at 5 degrees instead of at 20 degrees like last year’s sodium chloride. In November 2010, city crews had melted all the morning snow by noon, only to see the standing water freeze before 4 p.m. on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and West Seattle Bridge route, not to mention the state freeways. Meanwhile, a shift change got under way at 3 p.m., and some staff initially doubted reports of cars stuck on the southbound Viaduct, said Steve Pratt, director of street maintenance. Pratt was still learning his way around the agency, having been hired weeks earlier to replace the suddenly departing Monty Sedlak. ”There were major, major blunders,” he recalled Wednesday.
There will be overlapping shifts this year, and a different team of maintenance managers including Pratt in the control center, along with a police representative to monitor hazard spots, he said. Also, Seattle DOT and state DOT already have met to plan blanket brining of the Viaduct — especially southbound where it suddenly slows and curves to 25 mph at the stadiums, Pratt said.
Besides brine tanks, the city has gathered the usual coarse rock salt, mined from British Columbia, under what he calls the most photographed salt shed on the West Coast (below) at a maintenance yard near the Chinatown International District.
The city is launching a new weather response homepage that includes camera images and info on where plowing happened in the past one, three or 12 hours, via www.seattle.gov/transportation. King County Metro Transit is promoting its winter website, available here.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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