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Keep drains clear of snow

SEATTLE — With more snow and cold temperatures on the way, Seattle Public Utilities is asking residents to locate their street drains and keep them clear of snow and debris.

 Melting snow can overwhelm storm drains by filling them with ice, leaves and accumulated street debris, resulting in backed up gutters and drains, and localized flooding. In Seattle, there are about 80,000 storm drains — far more than city crews can clear quickly.

 Safely adopting a local storm drain or drainage ditch — that means staying out of the road when raking — by keeping it clear of leaves, snow and other debris is the single most important thing that residents, businesses can do to protect their property.

For a comprehensive list of things you can do to prepare for severe winter weather go to

Here are some more tips that will help you prepare for winter weather:

  •  If an inlet or street drain appears to be blocked by snow or debris, try to safely clear a channel to provide a path for the runoff. If the drain cannot be cleared, or if the cause of the blockage or flooding is uncertain, call Seattle Public Utilities at (206) 386-1800.
  • Protect your water pipes from freezing. Shut off outside faucets, drain the water and protect them by insulating them with foam covers.
  • If you’re going to be away, or if you have renters or own a vacant property, ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing — or shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.
  • Drain and remove all outdoor hoses, and shut off and drain in-ground sprinkler systems.
  • Pipes in exposed or unheated areas (attics, basements and garages) should be wrapped with tape and insulating materials, available at local hardware stores.
  • Property owners should check for any exposed pipes in unheated areas. That includes basements, garages, attics and crawl spaces.
  • Once it drops below freezing, protect indoor sink pipes that are against exterior walls by opening under-sink cabinet doors, allowing heat to circulate. During severe cold, allow the faucet farthest from your front door to slowly drip cold water. Set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, day or night (even if you are away).
  • Do not leave water running in unoccupied buildings. If the drain should plug, it could cause a flood.
  • Please don’t use hair dryers to thaw frozen pipes — you face the risk of electrocution!
  • If a water pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding. If you cannot turn off the main shut-off valve, Seattle residents can call 206-386-1800 and a crew will turn off the water at the meter for a standard service charge.

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In addition to providing a reliable water supply to more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City’s infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region’s environmental resources.