Of salt, snowplows and dead turtles

Dead road turtle at S. Morgan & Seward Park Ave. S

Dead road turtle by the curb of S. Morgan & Seward Park Ave. S

No doubt the snow storms and sub-freezing temperatures that iced over our roads for much of last week were frustrating to a region unaccustomed to and unprepared for ice and snow, but in the end, it was only a week, and it was only the first time since 1990 that such wintry conditions survived for more the a few days, before being melted away by our typically warmer and rainier weather. So while I was as inconvenienced as anybody—not even the Postal Service was willing to brave it up and down my hill for seven days—I’m not particularly angry or concerned about the way the city responded to the mess.

Shit happens, and as Mayor Nickels acknowledged today, the city is ready to reevaluate its snow clearing procedures and work with Metro to provide more reliable service during future storms.  But if it’s another 18 years before shit like this hits the region again, I’ll be neither surprised nor disappointed if the city’s performance isn’t any better.

But those of you demanding truckloads of salt and an army of steel-tipped snowplows to scrape the streets clean the next time a couple of inches of white stuff blankets the region better be prepared to deal with the consequences, because even the city’s minimal response has created or exacerbated damage that will take months, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

Case in point, the hundreds of reflective “turtles” lying dead and dismembered on the sides of our roads, their shells cracked and broken in the wake of even rubber-tipped plows.  As a transplant, I’ve learned to love these turtle markers, visible even on rainy nights, and ready to provide a rumbling warning when you  stray over the line.  We had plenty of salt and snowplows back in Philadelphia, but few turtles, as few would survive a typical winter of frequent plowing.  Given the rarity of extended snow events here in Seattle, I’d choose the turtles over the plows, and while I don’t have any numbers to support my assertion, I’m guessing so would traffic safety statisticians.

You don’t get something for nothing, and there are costs to salt and plows beyond the cost of the actual salt and the plows.  Of course we could do a better job clearing the roads, but I’m just not sure it’s worth the tradeoffs.


  1. 1


    Goldy cares more about broken road turtles than disabled people who can’t get to the store because city buses can’t travel on the icy streets?

    Bad compassionate liberal!

  2. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I think if you flipped Mayor Nipples on his back, he too would resemble a turtle…flailing away with his stubby arms & legs trying to right himself.
    Hey…that is eerily similiar to his Administrative style…
    The Mayor Nipples Turtle-style of Government…like a broken road turtle.
    On his back with his round gut pointing skyward, flailing his stubby arms & legs trying to right himself.
    But alas, like the broken raod turtle, Mayor Nipples is ready for the dump.

  3. 4


    I headed down to Tacoma for Christmas dinner. They had a lot less snow than Seattle. Whereas the 18 inches of snowfall in Bellingham kept us from visiting family.

    I’m wondering if we could share resources. If each municipality had a minimum number of snow plows and some agreements to dispatch where the need is greatest, wouldn’t that be fiscally responsible?

    By the way, my second cousin (twice removed) claims it hasn’t snowed like this since her junior year in college, 1951. I’d hate to buy a bunch of gear that sits around collecting dust.

  4. 5

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Jason you dimwit–
    NEVER bring up an idea that makes a lick of sense on this Blog! EVER!
    The Dimbulb Progressives here abhor good ideas.

  5. 6

    K spews:

    Stick it, Mr. C. I can give you quite a few examples of mutual aid. King COunty helped with equipment to fight fires in Eastern Wa, and not just firefighters, Roads Equipment. Other equipment is frequently loaned. Quite a long list is available at the ECC, and can be called on as needed. Plows, however are short.

  6. 7

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Sharing resources makes sense, but Conservatives would be opposed to that concept, especially when it might end a suburban/big city divide.

  7. 8

    slingshot spews:

    If Bush & his boss, Cheney would declare winter storms a terrorist threat before they leave office, the Rethuglickers would be fine with directing obscene amounts of the nation’s treasure towards its irradication. The global war on weather……you’re either with us or against us!

  8. 9


    Some people don’t understand that just because they’re angry doesn’t always mean that some person is responsible and could change things with a snap of the finger.

    The local government can’t deal with a once-in-a-generation snowstorm with the same efficiency as northeastern cities where snow is an annual occurrence.

  9. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    So that’s what they call those things! We rabbits have always referred to them as “Big Yellow Dot Thingys” as far back as any of us remember.

  10. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 That’s a great idea! Don’t pay any attention to the guy @5. He’s an idiot, and he fucks goats.

  11. 13

    Puddybud, Very Sad Today... spews:

    Farley@10: Those bridges collapsed because of an incorrect metal plate that was too thin to serve as a junction of several girders. The bridge was designed in the 1960s when truck loads were lighter. Bridge construction began in 1964 and the bridge opened to traffic in 1967. Karl F. Rolvaag, Donkey was guvnur when the bridge was built. There were 575,000 pounds of construction materials on the bridge.

  12. 14

    Puddybud, Very Sad Today... spews:

    Pelletizer@12: Strange… YouTube has some old patchy furball of a dumb bunny caught in the goat act. I saw “I post the most on HA” on the bunny tail.

  13. 15

    drool spews:

    The first thing everybody thinks of for clearing snow is plows.

    Quick quiz: What industry has a slow season during the winter?

    Ding ding ding. Construction!

    Did y’all know that front end loaders do a dandy job of clearing snow?

    The little podunk town I live near has no snow plows. They hire folks with front end loaders to clear snow.

    I personally cleared the county road near me…..no I did not ask to be paid nor was I. That’s called getting off your ass and doing something about it.

    The Boeing Company has no plows to speak of. They hired a bunch of loaders to clear their ramp so the planes could fly and be delivered.

    I drove to Seattle many days after the event and main arterials were deep in snow and slush.

    Nickels sat in a corner and sucked his thumb.

  14. 16

    Mark1 spews:

    Since most of the regulars posters here don’t have jobs to get to anyway, what the fuck do they care about proper snow removal? I’m sure Goldy was happy as a clam stuck in his house for a week; as gainful employment continues to elude him as well.

  15. 17

    Rob spews:

    As Goldie points out there is a cost to everything. Knocking out several thousand (tens of thousands?) turtles may have some expensive (even injury) consquences. Not that some salt, some steel plows on some streets, some front end loaders rented, and a whole lot of good planning might not do a lot of good.

  16. 18

    rhp6033 spews:

    Doesn’t Hwy 2 have reflectors that are imbedded in tiny cuts in the road so the snowplows can go over them?

    Anyway, I like as many reflectors and turtles as possible. I’ve sometimes had trouble driving at night in the rain, when the combination of streetlights, headlights, and city lights create reflections off the street which make it pretty much impossible to see the street lines. The turtles, or at least reflectors, help a lot. I imagine they prevent quite a few accident, but it would be difficult to measure the extent to which they are helpful.

    As to hiring private front-end loaders, I know of two which were hired to clear private parking lots, one at a bank and another at a local paint store. On both occassions, they managed to hit a car parked at the lot in the process.

    But I still don’t know why a lot of stores didn’t clear their lots earlier. Sure, it would be hard work with shovels. But a lot of customers were passing by the “impassable” lots, looking for another business which was more accessable. Since those sales clerks put themselves at risk to come in to work, you might as well have each of them do a half-hour of shovel duty. After a couple of days, the lot would be clear.

  17. 19

    World-Class Cynic spews:

    So, Seattle(TM) did a lousy job of removing snow, but did a great job of wiping out road turtles.

    Tell us again how Seattle(TM) is a world-class city.