Prepare for winter weather in Seattle

As winter weather arrives, SPU is offering Seattle residents helpful tips on how to prepare ahead and what to do in case of inclement weather. Seattle may not be known for its harsh and relentless winters, but every now and then winter storms can strike. A typical Seattle winter can see weather conditions ranging from the occasional ice and snow to the more intense winter weather system bringing a winter mix that can last for days. Either way, good preparation and staying informed are the keys to staying cool this winter.

Protect your pipes from freezing

During times when temperatures drop near freezing and below freezing, follow these tips to make sure your pipes don’t freeze and burst, which can cause significant damage to your home.

What to do before the cold

  • Protect water lines from freezing in exposed or unheated areas (attics, basements, and garages) by wrapping them with duct tape and insulating materials from hardware stores. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Drain and remove all exterior hoses and cover faucets for mud flaps.
  • Caulk around the pipes where they enter the house.
  • Turn off buried sprinklers and drain them.
  • Know where your stops are. In an emergency, you will need to know how to shut off the electricity, gas and water at the main switches and valves. You will want to know where they are BEFORE an emergency happens.

What to do in cold weather

  • Protect interior sink pipes from exterior walls by opening cabinet doors under the sink to allow interior heat to circulate.
  • Let an indoor faucet slowly drip cold water. Select the faucet furthest from your front door. Do not run water in unoccupied areas.
  • Set your thermostat to no less than 55 degrees day or night (even if you are away).

What to do if your pipes freeze (but haven’t burst)

A warning sign of frozen pipes can be found by turning on the water at your tap. If only a trickle of water or not at all comes out of the tap, your pipes may be frozen.

If you think your pipes have frozen, follow these steps to stay safe and minimize damage.

  • Locate the suspected frozen water line area. Likely locations include pipes that run against exterior walls or where your water utility enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. When you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will start to flow through the frozen area. Water running through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of the pipe using towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe, an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, or an electric hair dryer.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you cannot locate the frozen area, the frozen area is not accessible, or you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all the other faucets in your home to see if you have any additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others can also freeze.

What to do if your pipes burst

A burst pipe can be very scary. Follow these steps to minimize damage and get the situation under control as quickly as possible.

  • Immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop the flooding. The shut-off valve can be indoors or outdoors, typically in a basement, crawl space, or garage. Ideally, you will have located it BEFORE the pipe bursts as part of your winter weather preparation.
  • If you cannot turn off the main shutoff valve, SPU customers can call (206) 386-1800 and a member of the team will turn off the water at the meter for a service charge. This phone number is available 24/7.
  • Call a plumber to repair or replace the damaged section of pipe as soon as possible.

Solid Waste Collection Delays: Stay In The Winter

If snow and ice are in the forecast, it could mean that your solid waste collections will be delayed due to inclement weather. If this happens, SPU will send notifications to affected clients through the following methods:

For more information on other citywide services, including updates on current services, outages, and alerts, visit one of these resources:

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