Seattle Snowstorm 2005 (insert swooshy sound effect)


As others have reported, it snowed here in the Seattle area yesterday.

One whopping inch.

You'd think that Seattle, which gets snow a few times a year, wouldn't go completely apoplectic the moment the flakes starts falling from the sky. Especially since it all melts away in a few hours anyway.

I didn't watch the local news last night, but I suspect it went something like this:

Cold Open (3 minutes): LIVE REPORT FROM SEATTLE WHERE YES I THINK I CAN SEE SOME SNOW THAT HASN'T YET MELTED BUT IT COULD JUST BE FOAM FROM A SPILT LATTE.

Custom "SNOWSTORM 2005" graphic title sequence with extra special focus on the weatherman (45 seconds)

Lead story (5 minutes): SNOWSTORM 2005 HAS STRUCK THE NORTHWEST WITH A VENGEANCE. WE WILL GO TO A LIVE REPORT FROM <Reporter X> IN BALLARD.

Reporter X: "Snow is white fluffly stuff that falls from the sky. It happens rarely here in the Northwest, but some parts of the country get it a lot. And here's some science trivia you can try at your next cocktail party: Snow is actually just frozen water!"

Reporter X and anchors do some Q&A like, "Is it safe to eat snow?" and "This snowfall has been predicted for days; do you think anxiety over the coming storm affected the Seahawks' performance on Saturday?"

Throughout, a crawl at the bottom of the screen provides critical information like "Wear sturdy boots when walking in snow."

"STAY TUNED, COVERAGE OF SNOWSTORM 2005 WILL CONTINUE AFTER A SHORT BREAK."

Commercial (2 minutes)

Second story (5 minutes): COVERAGE OF SNOWSTORM 2005 CONTINUES WITH A LIVE REPORT FROM <Reporter Y> IN ISSAQUAH.

Reporter Y: "Yes, there were reports of snow being spotted as far away as Issaquah. I'm standing here with Gladys Wilkins who claims she saw some snow as early as 7:30 today."

Interview with Ms. Wilkins.

Anchors banter with Reporter Y saying things like, "Gosh, I hope you've got your shovels ready."

Commercial (2 minutes)

Third story (5 minutes) Continuing coverage of Snowstorm 2005 with footage from the last snowstorm, driving tips ("be careful when driving, because snow is slippery"), cold weather tips ("try wearing a sweater to stay warm").

Commercial (2 minutes)

Weather report (4 minutes): Weatherman talks about snow and shows you so many Doppler radar graphs it'll make your head spin. He doesn't actually say anything useful, but it's fun to hear phrases like "the Fraser Valley effect" and "a weakening area of low pressure".

Commercial (2 minutes)

In Other News (10 seconds): Police chief's gun stolen, how to get great deals at post-holiday sales, and bunny rabbits.

Close titles (5 seconds).

Comments (50)
  1. Matt Green says:

    Wit so dry one could mistake you for living in the Sahara! Well done.

  2. Keith Moore [exmsft] says:

    Don’t forget the list of school closures…

  3. Nick Parker says:

    You really miss out on the snow fall we get in the Midwest, check out my post with a photo of the snow at the end of my driveway from last week.

    http://developernotes.com/archive/2005/01/08/197.aspx

  4. Serge Wautier says:

    Ha! I thought this was a Belgium-only situation :-)

  5. Florian says:

    Greetings from good old europe

  6. Miles Archer says:

    You think this is bad? I was in LA over Xmas and they treated a little rain the same.

    And you watch TV news, why?

    (My excuse is that I was trying figure out how wet I was going to get at Disneyland. )

  7. Richard says:

    About a quarter of an inch is all we need to have chaos — multi-hour hold-ups on motorways etc..

    But that’s SE Engalnd (where many years we have no snow).

  8. David Kitchen says:

    1 Foot of snow fell before I awoke.

    It was bliss… a proper white Christmas.

    It lasted just about as long as the Seattle snow though. Rain for the afternoon and evening meant that nothing was left by the next morning.

    I was happy though.

    If you want to really see a country that gets excited about snow, try England. This place loves it… for the first 6 hours! After that every road and rail link is shut off and the dried foods have disappeared from supermarkets shelves… we’re very accustomer to how ineptly we handle it!

  9. Andy says:

    Isn’t Seattle where an inch of snow will tie up traffic on the freeway for days?

    Or is that rain, light mist or a ray of sun peeking through the clounds?

    Oh wait, all of those things will tie up traffic for days.

  10. Cooney says:

    You’re in Seattle – you don’t have traffic. I’m in DC. I have traffic.

  11. Dennis Jackson says:

    You’d be surprised how worked up folks in New England get every winter with the first snow — even a dusting has them running to the store to stock up on supplies.

  12. Martin Ritchie says:

    Here (Waterloo Canada) we got 30cm (one foot) a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t even close the schools/daycare/office.

  13. Doug says:

    From a Canadian point of view, watching American news deal with snow is a standard part of winter entertainment.

    The clips of drivers spinning their wheels in 1/4 inch of snow, spinning out, etc, is just too funny.

  14. Ovidiu says:

    Funny – a few days ago I was reading the weather report on Yahoo! and Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond had a "Severe weather alert" mark. Seattle I click and to my astonishment they treat 0 degrees Celsius and half an inch of snow as "severe weather".

    Down here (in Bucharest, Romania), severe weather means at least 2 feet of snow and below -15 degrees. The average winter is warmer than that. The conclusion? Pleeeease…

  15. bg says:

    u should try living in the uk, we get one centimeter of snow (about every 4 years), and whole coutry closes for a week.

    bg

  16. subbes says:

    LJ user/blogger Jameth made a ‘snow bunny’ in Seattle http://www.livejournal.com/users/jameth/1661507.html which was featured on the news: http://www.livejournal.com/users/jameth/1663453.html — he is understandably happy about the publicity a large rabbit of snow garners.

  17. Joe Dietz says:

    In related news, I recently dropped my ‘local programming’ from my DTV subscription and haven’t yet noticed a downside to this decision.

  18. carlso says:

    Cooney wrote:

    "You’re in Seattle – you don’t have traffic. I’m in DC. I have traffic."

    Perhaps you’ve never been to Seattle. Depending on which survey you read, Seattle has somewhere between the second to the sixth worst traffic in the U.S.A.

  19. Heh, I live in Oslo, Norway. In 1952 we hosted the Olympic Winter Games. It usually snows a lot each winter, and it stays. But do my fellow citizens prepare for this? No. In a country where there’s at least 1 meter of snow each winter in most places, the first snow fall this year, in late November, meaning 1 month after it usually starts snowing, was chaos. Utter chaos. It’s rather embarassing.

  20. JamesW says:

    @bg

    Leave Scotland out of that snowy UK shutdown! I’m English and currently live in England but have lived in the north east of Scotland for a fair time. I learnt to drive up there, and after having experience of a few Aberdeenshire winters, I marvel at the attempts at driving after a small snow shower down south.

  21. Darrell says:

    Fourth story (5 minutes): COVERAGE OF SNOWSTORM 2005 CONTINUES WITH A LIVE REPORT FROM <Reporter Z> IN <some place in Seattle since I don’t live there>.

    Reporter Z: "Due to the presence of snow and maybe possibly ice on the roads, there is a special form of movement you should do to avoid slipping and falling. Try placing one foot in front of the other in a slow, steady, controlled manner. Experts call this form of movement, ‘walking’."

  22. Scott says:

    My office mate and I are convinced that someone at King 5 news wants Jim Foreman dead. They always send him out to the natural disasters. During last years snowstorm they sent him out in "SnowKing 5", an SUV used by the TV station, to report on the "massive" amounts of snow falling around the city and the various car wrecks.

    My favorite part was when they would state, "If you don’t have to go somewhere today, you shouldn’t drive. Now to Jim Foreman in SnowKing 5 driving around the city."

  23. tomw says:

    KONG 16 was the best last night at 10:00 – they sent a reporter down south (Tukwila?) and the lead story was "it might start snowing here something in the future" while he’s standing there on the bare ground. Meanwhile he’s surrounded on screen by their "it’s a blizzard!" graphic.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sounds about accurate for the DFW area.

  25. FangryDanny says:

    Having worked on the news as a video editor at the local Fox station in Austin for four years, almost nothing was more frustrating than the news producers’ insistence that we lead with ridiculous weather stories such as "Austinites try to stay dry while shopping!" with accompanying video (rain pouring off rooftops, people with umbrellas, feet splashing in puddles, of course), even though we get a perfectly normal amount of rain for our part of the country. God forbid we actually cover world events in a meaningful way in our local newscast – usually it was just 3 :10sec VOs in the second segment, while a quarter inch of rain could expand to fill half the broadcast. And our annual sleet on Feb. 5th shuts down the city for a week.

  26. KC Lemson says:

    Having grown up around the midwest, I get so tired of the way people react around snow here. I had a fun event scheduled for 4pm last friday and I was asked earlier in the week if I would reschedule it if we got "a snow day"… a WHAT?

    And then over the weekend, we invited some people over and they said they would try to make it if the snow wasn’t too bad. It was like two inches! Ugh.

    I understand how people who grew up in an area without much falling snow local to their homes get excited about it snowing, and I do too… but then taking that to the next step and modifying your behavior significantly as a result? That, I do not understand.

  27. The Instructor says:

    For those of you who don’t know(lots and lots of people), DFW stands for Dallas/Ft. Worth TX.

  28. mikeb says:

    My off topic comment on the DC vs. Seattle traffic situation:

    I’ve lived in both areas – DC has far worse traffic than Seattle. It’s no contest.

  29. James Schend says:

    I concur with every "don’t watch local news" statement on here. The local news in most places is terrible, in Seattle it’s pathetic, and in LA it’s abyssimal. (Typical LA story, witnessed by me this christmas: Anne Nicole Smith visits the troops. This was the lead-in story for like 3 of the 5 local news stations in LA.)

    Of course, I live in Snohomish, so the Seattle news stations always treat us like podunk rednecks anyway. "Look, stare at these unfortunate souls who live more than 30 miles away from Seattle, the gem of civilization! Sir, do you have running water? Is your 1935 truck broken down, making it hard to butcher your hog for dinner?" They’ll ignore the great things that Snohomish High School students do, but when the city council makes a fuss about a mural of ‘naked pigs’, they’ll report it. Holy crap.

    Hey, news flash: I live in Snohomish. I’m not a farmer. I don’t own a pick-up truck. I work in computing, and we have a Starbucks.

    It’s a shame because I’d like to see local news, but I simply can’t stand the terrible broadcasts. Is there any good source of local Seattle-area news without the BS? Like maybe a PBS show in the area?

  30. Cooney says:

    James Schend:

    > Hey, news flash: I live in Snohomish. I’m not a farmer. I don’t own a pick-up truck. I work in computing, and we have a Starbucks.

    Of course you have a Starbucks. I can’t throw a rock in the Seattle area without hitting a Barrista. I remember standing outside a moviehouse just north of Seattle proper and counting 4 (four!) Starbuckses in sight.

  31. Matt Green says:

    What I love about local news stations is that they’re always in a perpetual pissing contest over viewership. Or at least, that’s how it is in the DC area:

    "Channel 7 – watched by more other people than any other news station!"

    "Channel 9 – the fastest growing news station in the DC metro area!"

    Who cares how many people watch their news show?! It’s not like people flip through channels and say, "oh man, more people watch this one, they said so themselves! I better watch Channel 7!!!!"

  32. FangryDanny says:

    And you haven’t even seen the sight of our station’s News Director huddling with the troops in front of 4 TVs showing all the local stations and then exploding when we beat them to the air by a minute and a half (WITH VIDEO, EVEN!) on something like JFK Jr’s plane going missing. 99.99% of the people have no idea which station had it first, and they don’t care. I put it on par with surfing the radio and finding two stations playing the same song – curious, but not earth shattering.

  33. Anyone from the Midwest complaining about people in Seattle not being able to drive when it snows need to remember two things:

    1. We have these big lumpy things in the road here that you don’t in the MidWest. They’re kind of like the dunes you get on Lake Michigan, but are in fact what we like to call "Hills". When snow and ice form on these, you end up with large numbers of vehicles sliding into one another and then into busy 40mph traffic. This is because ice and snow have a low friction coefficient, and brakes don’t work on them regardless of how slowly and carefully you drive, or how experienced you are at winter driving.

    2. People in Seattle can’t drive when it’s sunny or when it starts raining. Why expect any difference for snow?

  34. You forgot about the report LIVE from the base of Queen Anne hill, where drivers are trying unsuccessfully to go uphill on the icy road.

    In response to Seattle’s first "snowstorm" of 2005, our son’s daycare warned all the parents they would contact us if they close due to weather. One of the roads to work clogged up with drivers who couldn’t figure out a mild incline. No, really.

    The Seattle response to snow is like the Southern California response to rain. Or the typical moviegoer’s response to the SCARY woods in The Blair Witch Project.

    Do people not go outside anymore?

  35. GEL says:

    "It happens rarely here in the Northwest"

    Really?

    We have about 8 inches here in eastern Washington. We’ve had it for at least a week and a half. The temperature has been in the teens and low twenties for that time also.

    There is much more to the Northwest than the Seattle area.

  36. cooney says:

    Do people not go outside anymore?

    You’re in Seattle. I thought you guys just hung around and drank coffee all the time. That’s what I get for watching TV, I guess.

  37. GEL says:

    No problem Raymond. Eastern Washington and Western Washington really have quite different climates. All this snow and the cold temperatures are pretty normal for us.

    I really enjoy your blog, it’s always good stuff.

  38. Syz says:

    Cooney: "I remember standing outside a moviehouse just north of Seattle proper and counting 4 (four!) Starbuckses in sight."

    Should that be "Starbuxen," perhaps?

  39. tsrblke says:

    In St. Louis we got about 3 inches. The news wouldn’t shut up. It was only because of the driving conditions *during* the storm that I really thought the storm was bad. I was out that night and I just stayed with a friend because the falling snow was a problem, the next morning all the street snow was gone, driving was fine, yet the news continued to cover it.

    I also happened to be in LA during there massive rain storms, comming from St. Louis (where it rains alot) to LA where 3 inches is a massive flood and Malibu begins sliding into the ocean is quite an interesting site. I heard 3 inches and almost laughed at the small amount, until I realized that this was about 20% of their annual rain fall in 3 days.

  40. Raymond Chen says:

    I hang my head in shame. It happens rarely here in *this part* of the Northwest.

  41. Tom M says:

    I have a theory that driving in deep snow is actually easier than driving in just a little snow, as deep snow actually provides some braking effect, but a little snow is just slippery and icy. The problem we have in the UK is that if there is enough cloud for heavy precipitation then it is likely to be too warm for snow, so we tend to get just a little bit, which then turns to ice after the first few vehicles have gone over it. I’m sure that less than 20 years ago when I was a child there was much heavier snow more often in this country than there is today. I remember having up to a foot of snow falling quite regularly but now we hardly get any.

  42. Peter says:

    If you lived here in Philadelphia, an inch of snow would require you to rush to the store to buy milk and bread in case you were to get snowed in for days! You would also have to go to the video store and pick up movies for the kids since they will close the schools for anything more than 2 inches which won’t get plowed anyway.

  43. Gordo says:

    Greetings from San Diego, replace [snow] with [rain] and repeat.

  44. Cooney says:

    Hey Gordo, do you get the deal where you get rolling fog on the roads and bright sunlight at the same time. That stuff is so cool. Probably freaks out the normals, too.

  45. carlso says:

    "I’ve lived in both areas – DC has far worse traffic than Seattle. It’s no contest."

    Never said D.C. is not worse than Seattle.

    It’s well known that D.C. traffic is bad — been there. But Seattle traffic is almost as bad in various locations: I-5/I-90, I-405/I-90, and forget about trying to go west on the 520 bridge during rush hours.

    "Seattle doesn’t have traffic" is just not true. In fact, Seattle is usually ranked equal to or just under D.C.

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0855647.html

    I’d hate to see what Seattle traffic is like on the interstates when there’s snow. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be on the Beltway in D.C. either during a snowstorm. ;-)

  46. Heh. I remember a Seattle news-break where programming was interrupted to cut to footage of a few rain-drops spattering a puddle in 4th Ave to demonstrate the "rain-storm" in progress.

    Or seeing a local news broadcaster huddled under an umbrella at Snoqualmie Pass to provide a live news feed about the incredible snow-storm. I was standing 6 feet away from her…in a tee shirt.

    As far as traffic goes, Microsoft needs to provide driving or etiquette lessons. It doesn’t do much for the local image when the traffic offender speeding past you in the HOV lane or giving you the finger etc has MS-decorated license plates or a huge MS product group towel visible through their car-window.

  47. Markus K says:

    Do you have winter tyres in the U.S.?

  48. Chris says:

    Well, I live in LA (actually Orange County, but I’m right on the border of LA County), and traffic here really sux. No, no, I mean it *really* sux.

    &lt;cue pissing contest&gt;

  49. Kelli Zielinski says:

    Mike’s got a good point – It would be *nice* if people from MS would learn to drive, or park, or use their blinkers…

    My husband and I call the parking tags "socially handicaped tags" actually. We take ours down when we leave campus. It just seems silly to drive around with it hanging there.

    … plus, I don’t want people immediately assuming I drive like an ass…

  50. Ovidiu says:

    -17 degrees Celsius for the past 3 nights in Bucharest, -5 to -3 degrees during the day. In the Carpathian Mountains temeperatures hit a record low two nights ago, -36 degrees at night. Now that’s bad for traffic and business…

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