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Ready, set, snow!

Preparing to meet Old Man Winter
UW Grounds crew clears snow Feb 2019

The crisp fall temperatures and shorter days are a reminder that ice and snow could make an appearance anytime now. Some weather forecasts for the Puget Sound warn of heavy snow this winter, which may elicit memories of last February’s “Snowmageddon.”

A multi-agency effort

Regardless of what Mother Nature delivers, with the inclement weather months upon us, it’s a great time to familiarize yourself with resources that can keep your commute around campus reliable and safe. 

Gardener Gareth Kenee in a snow plow

Gareth Kenee, a gardener, takes a short break from clearing Jefferson Road during last February's snowstorm.


UW Facilities staff have been prepping for winter weather for some time now, and follow a comprehensive snow response plan that’s a routine part of Facilities’ operational procedures. The University also works closely with UWPD and off-campus agencies such as Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation to keep commuters aware of potential closures and reroutes. 


De-icer sits waiting to be used during freezing temperatures.

Facilities Outside Zone Manager Howard Nakase says two new one-ton trucks and additional snow removal equipment have been added to their shop’s arsenal, and sand, de-icer, plows and brooms are at the ready. So are Facilities staff, who begin work as early as 4 a.m. at the onset of a snow event or earlier if need be. During ongoing inclement weather, staff work 24/7.  

All hands on deck

For example, last February, while grounds staff and equipment operators took care of the roadways and walkways, custodians helped sweep building entrances and made building access more navigable.  By Feb. 14, the UW Seattle campus experienced a record seven days of either late starts, early release or full suspension of UW Seattle campus operations. 

Kun Won Suh clearing snow from steps

Custodians like Kun Won Suh help keep the campus safer and more accessible during periods of ice and snow.


Even when campus operations are suspended, most Facilities staff still report to work. That’s because students need to be able to get in and out of their dorms safely, food and supplies need to be delivered, garbage needs to be picked up, and places like the UW Medical Center and UWPD never close, and must also be accessible. Maintenance staff are also on hand, ready to respond to critical repair needs. When necessary, Facilities staff are put up in local hotels so they can get to work safely.

While many area homes and businesses lost power during February’s snowstorm, power on campus remained on, as it always does. That’s because while the UW obtains most of its daily electricity from Seattle City Light, the main Power Plant and the West Campus Utility Plant provide central heating, cooling and air for most buildings on campus, as well as backup/emergency power using diesel generators. And someone’s always there: about a dozen Campus Utilities and Operations staff work in rotating shifts 24x7, 365 days per year, to ensure the Power Plant runs smoothly day and night.

How to stay informed

To check the status of the University during inclement weather, staff, faculty and students should subscribe to UW Alert and check the UW homepage.

During inclement weather, Facilities staff maintain a Snow Removal Progress map, where you can see the status of specific campus roads and sidewalks. (Of course, conditions can change quickly so you should always use your best judgment as well.)

Snow plow clearing the Memorial Lane cul-de-sac

During the colder winter weather, Transportation Services does its best to keep the parking lots accessible and parking available, but safety is the number one priority. In the event that parking areas become inaccessible due to inclement weather, many parking lots or portions of the lots may be closed. Please refer to onsite signage for lot closure instructions and relocation directions or visit a campus gatehouse. UW Transportation Services homepage also lists closures, re-routes and parking information. 

All Transit agencies provide rider alerts, which can help commuters learn about specific changes to their routes: King County Metro, Sound Transit, WSDOT, Community Transit, Island Transit, Kitsap Transit and Pierce Transit.

Transportation Services also has other resources on its safety page.

The best way to get ready for winter is to prepare now. Faculty and staff may want to review UW Human Resources policies on inclement weather. And for everyone, UW Emergency Management has a great list of resources to help you prepare for hazardous weather and stay safe.