pfly By: pfly

Snow traffic

I grew up in Buffalo, NY, where it snows a lot and most of the time people are able to continue normal life, the streets are rapidly plowed (and salted), and it takes a truly major blizzard to close schools and make driving a mess. In contrast, when it snows in Seattle, even a little, everything grinds to a halt. Currently we have been snowed on more than a little, so it is rather like a state of emergency here.


I used to find it amusing and annoying how traffic would come to a stop when it snowed even a little. But over the years I've realized there are a few differences between Seattle and Buffalo that explain the different reaction to snow on the roads. First, in the Buffalo area there is an army of snow plows and veteran plow drivers, and the plows dump huge amounts of salt on the roads, which melts the ice but causes cars to rust. In the Seattle area, snow is rare, there are far fewer plows, and they don't use salt at all. Second, the temperature in Seattle rarely stays below freezing for very long, so when it does snow there can easily be a thawing and refreezing cycle that creates very slick ice. In Buffalo, the snow usually stays powdery for a while, and when ice does form on the roads, the salt tends to break it up. Third, the Seattle area is quite hilly, while Buffalo is basically flat. The terrain in the Seattle area can be surprising. The short drive from our house to a nearby bookstore never seemed particularly hilly to me, but driving it in the snow (this photo) made me realize there are several stretches along the way where the slopes are steep enough to make icy roadways a major hazard and difficult to drive on.


My Buffalo brain sees this kind of snow and thinks, "wimpy Seattle-drivers can't handle a little snow", but my emerging Seattle-brain is beginning to see why, and to be more cautious than my Buffalo-instincts tell me to be.


In any case, I'll be staying home tomorrow.

  • Steve Johnson PRO 9y

    You would think that it never snows in Seattle!

    Seen in my contacts' photos. (?)
  • B Mully 9y

    That is very interesting perspective!
  • Mark Griffith PRO 9y

    I have a Utah driving in snow brain, but I still hate people that don't know how to drive in the snow.
    Seen on the Web. (?)
  • Dean Forbes PRO 9y

    one of the problems in Seattle that prevents plowing is the goddamn lane divider dots. the fact that our street/freeway infrastructure is so antiquated and that too many people live here just adds to the mess.
  • egefan - Suzan Almond 9y

    I like your photo and description very much - I can relate to the problems of driving in snow in Seattle - it's the same here when it snows !
  • GustavoG PRO 9y

    Heh, I can sort of relate...
    I definitely didn't grow up with any kind of snow knowledge, and Seattle was my first drive-in-the-snow experience. My take on it is that one will skid for all the reasons you listed, so if one's going to do it, at least one should do it with style.

    You know how it goes. When it snows, Seattle traffic stops. When it rains... it stops too. When there's sun, the drivers are so startled that traffic stops. ;)
  • photo fiddler PRO 9y

    Fascinating analysis. It makes good sense. I hope your weather has returned to normal. You do shoot snow well though...
  • zamboni-man PRO 5y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Snow Plows, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
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Taken on November 27, 2006
  • Canon Canon PowerShot S80
  • ƒ/7.1
  • 5.8 mm
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