January 06, 2009

So, in the middle of December, Seattle got sat on by an arctic air mass that kept our high temperatures just on either side of freezing. Then, naturally, a storm or series of storms moved in and dumped all kinds of moisture through that arctic air mass, resulting in snow. Quite a bit of it, which is unusual for Seattle, since we're so close to sea level and all. And because of the arctic air mass, the snow didn't go anywhere, which is what it would have normally done. Nope, it sat and got snowed on again.

Apparently, this kind of series of events that results in 12 inches of snow hanging around is something that, statistically, happens here once every 12 to 20 years. Not like some places that see snow that arrives in November and lingers til March. Yet, you'd never know it from the whining and grumbling going on.

You see, the roads weren't cleared. Oh, sure, they plowed and sanded the arterials, the highways and bridges and main thoroughfares, 24/7, but the residential streets got neglected. The airport has more snowplows than the city. The city doesn't want to use salt for environmental reasons. Local businesses lost money because the last minute holiday shoppers couldn't get out to spend their bonuses. The whining has gotten so that the City Council's first item of business for the new year is figuring out "what went wrong" and grilling the head of the transportation department.

Um. It was a "once in every 12 to 20 year" storm or series of storms. Things are bound to get a little rough during such events. People are bound to be inconvenienced by them. Snow at sea level is inconvenient by definition. Is it really necessary to have an inquisition? Caitlyn and I walked about one mile to find a functioning bus route, and we (mostly) treated it as an adventure. And we live in the neglected south-end of town. Do we want to pay for the quantity of salt needed for such an event and the storage of it, with our local sales tax at 9%? How about more road maintenance because more aggressive plowing would tear up the surface? Anyone here want to pay for that?

Sure, things could have been done better. There could have been much better communication between the city and the bus system. Trash and recycling collections could have been resumed in a more equitable fashion, not just letting the poorer parts of town go weeks without collection. And employers should have been more flexible with their employees who couldn't get to work. Adjust schedules or be lenient or grant some bonus sick days or something. Permit telecommuting when possible (geez, Microsoft). But the people who demanded employees get to work when getting to work was impossible to do safely - you all should be left out in the snow, preferably with only a hoodie, a pair of tread-bare sneakers with a hole over the right big toe, and half of a cheap chocolate bar.

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