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How SPU Prepares for Storm Season (and what you can do to help)

Storm season in Seattle can bring challenges like flooding, frozen pipes, and icy roads. We work hard to prepare for these challenges before winter storms hit, so that when they do, the impacts to you and your community are minimal. Here are just a few of the ways we prepare for winter weather, and a few things you can do to help:

Clearing Storm Drains

This time of year, storm drains can easily become overwhelmed with fallen leaves, ice, snow and other debris, resulting in flooding in neighborhoods across the city. As soon as the first leaves fall, SPU’s Drainage and Wastewater crews start clearing drains with vactor trucks— basically giant vacuum trucks that suck up leaves and other debris, clearing the way for rain and melted snow.

How you can help:
There are over 33,000 storm drains in Seattle—far more than our crews can keep clear on their own! You can help keep them clear by raking your leaves and putting them in the yard waste bin or using them as mulch. Use a rake and dustpan or shovel to safely clear leaves from your local storm drain.

Planning for Icy Roads

The trucks that pick up Seattle’s garbage, recycling, and food/yard waste weigh around 30 tons. This means they can’t safely navigate icy roads the same way our cars and SUVs can. SPU works closely with our contracted haulers to assess weather conditions and notify you as soon as possible if collection might be delayed in your neighborhood due to snow and ice.

How you can help:
In the case of severe weather, there are several places you can go to find out whether your collection has been postponed:

We’ll also communicate via local media and other local online platforms such as

Responding to Pipe Breaks

Freezing weather can cause water pipes to freeze and burst. This can lead to flooding, water outages, or even damage like this road washout (see photo, right) that occurred during last year’s storm. SPU’s water crews are on standby during freezing weather to quickly repair broken water pipes and mains, ensuring your water continues to flow no matter the temperature.

How you can help:
Protect your home from pipe breaks by disconnecting garden hoses, insulating outdoor pipes and spigots, and insulating pipes in your crawl space, attic, or basement.