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Durkan issues emergency proclamation as Seattle braces for dangerous cold snap unseen in a decade

The mayor and several city agencies detailed their severe weather response plans ahead of the holidays.

SEATTLE — Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency proclamation Friday for the city of Seattle ahead of a system that's expected to bring snow and days of freezing temperatures to the region.

Durkan also signed an emergency order to provide incentives of at least $150 to workers who will be staffing shelters and warming centers, and working in person. The city announced Friday plans for additional warming centers as well in neighborhoods across Seattle. 

Durkan said the city will supplement staffing at overnight shelters and warming centers, as providers face staffing challenges.

"This dangerous cold will be the lowest and coldest temperatures that we've seen in more than a decade in Seattle," Durkan said.

Durkan held a severe weather briefing Thursday alongside several city agencies that detailed Seattle's emergency response plan ahead of the freezing temperatures and potential for snow.

"Please, if you can stay home, stay home. Not just because of omicron, but because of the weather we're going to have," Durkan said.

RELATED: Timeline: Lowland snow, frigid temperatures in store for western Washington

Forecasts show the highest likelihood for snow is Saturday night into Sunday.

Further complicating matters is the expected surge in omicron cases as people gather for the holidays. Durkan said the city's workforce is already being impacted by the highly contagious variant.

"These people who are working 24-7, really are picking up the load for the people who can't come in," Durkan said.

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What to know: Travel

The Seattle Department of Transportation said it will operate in 24-7 shifts beginning Friday and into the New Year to keep the city's 1,200 miles of road clear of snow and ice.

SDOT Deputy Director of Maintenance Operations Rodney Maxie also advised people to stay indoors if they can.

"We'd like to encourage that anybody that does have to travel during the storm to use transit and stay off the road with other vehicles so that you can give our plow operators the opportunity to pre-treat the roads between storms as much as possible," Maxie said.

Maxie said usual customer service to clear bike lanes and sidewalks won't be available unitl Sunday night, as the focus will be on the city's main arteries that lead to essential businesses, including hospitals, businesses and grocery stores.

Maxie said SDOT is receiving additional plow truck driver assistance from other agencies such as Seattle Public Utilities, Parks and Recreation, and Seattle City Light.

King County Metro said buses are prepared for emergency snow routes to be on service, should there be a need.

RELATED: 5 ways to prepare for freezing weather around Puget Sound

What to know: Power

Seattle City Light Director Debra Smith said the winter months typically bring the city's highest usage levels and staff will be in place to keep the heat and lights on.

"We are assured that we have adequate staff who are prepared to come in and do work for the customers that we serve," Smith said.

Normal winter usage peaks at 1,500-1,600 megawatts, Smith said, but they are projecting demand to near 2,000 megawatts on Dec. 27, which would be close to their historic high.

Smith said this event is unusual because of the cold temperatures and the number of days it's expected to last.

What to know: Emergency shelters

For those experiencing homelessness, two severe cold weather shelters will open in Seattle starting Saturday at 7 p.m. and though Wednesday.

RELATED: Seattle to open severe weather shelters during cold snap

Seattle's Human Services Department is working with the Salvation Army to operate a shelter at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall on 301 Mercer St., which will open up at least 100 additional shelter spaces.

The second emergency shelter will be at the Compass Housing Alliance on 210 Alaskan Way S., in Pioneer Square.

On Friday, Seattle officials announced plans for additional warming centers, including at City Hall, International District/Chinatown Community Center, Magnuson Building #406, Northgate Community Center, and Rainier Beach Community Center.

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