Seattle is in for a cold snap starting Christmas and extending into New Year’s Day.
After a summer with record heat, Seattle will see “the lowest temperatures we’ve experienced in a decade,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said at a news conference Thursday.
Officials expect snow to accumulate, but the real danger will come from the low temperatures next week, which will lead to frozen roads and bring risks of frostbite and hypothermia.
Snow is most likely to fall between Saturday evening and Sunday night, according to National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Reed Wolcott. NWS currently forecasts at least 2 inches of accumulation possible in the Seattle area through the weekend.
Next week, daytime highs are expected to be above freezing but overnight lows are currently forecast to drop to the 20s and possibly the single digits, Wolcott said.
“Regardless of the exact temperatures, any moisture that’s left untreated on surfaces, sidewalks will refreeze during the overnight hours,” he said.
The cold snap coincides with pandemic-related staffing shortages. Many staff members were called in from vacation, said Seattle Department of Transportation deputy director Rodney Maxie.
The Seattle Department of Transportation will operate 24/7 starting on Friday, Dec. 24, into the new year. Seattle City Light will also operate 24/7 in anticipation of outages.
Seattle will also open shelter space for people experiencing homelessness. The city has also said they are trying to open additional day and warming centers.
SDOT will primarily focus on treating the 1,200 miles of roads that connect to essential businesses and hospitals, meaning that sidewalks and bike lanes will likely not be serviced until Sunday night.
Seattle City Light CEO Debra Smith said the utility is expecting a high demand for electricity during an already peak season. Typically, a normal peak during winter months will be around 1,500 to 1,600 megawatts. The utility is expecting around 2,000 megawatts of demand on Dec. 27, which will rival the utility’s all-time peak from 1990, she said.
Durkan encouraged residents to stay home and check on their neighbors and pets, as well as to help out with shoveling.