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Get ready for winter weather

Although the National Weather Service predicts the Seattle area will experience a warmer winter this year, it’s still smart to be prepared for cold weather. Typically, UW campuses see snow and ice in December and January and a bit into February. Here are a few things to know in advance.

It’s snowing! How can I find out if classes or in-person work are affected?

You see some flakes outside. Are your classes canceled? Do you have to go to work in person?

If UW, UW Bothell or UW Tacoma decide to change operations due to the weather, we’ll share the news via email with a UW Advisory message to students and employees from the affected campus. For those who’ve signed up, we’ll also send you a UW Alert text message (pro tip: sign up now). Info will be posted on the website (check the website for your campus) and social media. Employees who work in Seattle can also call the UW Information Lines at 206-UWS-INFO (206-897-4636) or toll-free 1-866-897-4636. If there’s no message, your campus is operating on a regular schedule.

A change in operations could include canceling classes, closing offices or switching to virtual operations (which means no in-person classes or services; remote learning and work if possible). For students, check with your instructors about whether you’ll have class online.

During suspended or virtual operations, employees who aren’t essential staff (ask your supervisor if you’re unsure), are encouraged to work remotely. Those who can’t should follow the UW Suspended Operations Policy.

How does UW make the decision to start late, dismiss early or suspend operations?

UW has a Weather Status Assessment group, which includes representatives from operational and academic units across the three campuses. UW Emergency Management feeds weather updates to that group and convenes the group if it looks like the weather might impact mobility and operations.

UW in Seattle, UW Bothell and UW Tacoma consider current weather conditions and reliable forecasts, whether public transit is operating, current and predicted road conditions, K-12 school operations and whether UW’s Facilities crews have the tools and people to keep pathways and roadways on campuses safe. A team from each campus makes recommendations for hybrid, virtual or suspended operations to the President and Chancellors.

In the event of snow, ice, high winds or other dangerous conditions, a decision will usually be made no later than 5 a.m. about any change in operations.

Getting to campus

If it’s snowy out, be prepared for changes to your commute. If you ride the bus, check King County Metro, Community Transit or Pierce Transit for updates and snow routes.

Link light rail and Sounder trains typically operate regular service during cold and icy weather, but some emergencies, such as mudslides, can cancel service.

If you’re driving, especially if you’re planning a longer trip over a mountain pass, the Washington State Department of Transportation has winter driving tips and suggestions about what to carry in your car.

What if I can’t make it to campus?

Conditions may be different at your home than they are on campus. If it’s not safe for you to get to campus, students should contact instructors as soon as possible.

Employees should contact their supervisor if they’re unable to come to work. Learn more about inclement weather, including leave use and compensation, at the UW Human Resources website.

If heavy and extended snow is in the forecast, units should check their department’s business interruption and continuity plan and talk with supervisors. UW’s Center for Teaching & Learning also has excellent recommendations for teaching during campus disruptions.

More info

Check out the UW Emergency Management winter storm guide for UW and local info. UW Environmental Health & Safety also has great tips (layers matter).

Stay safe out there, Huskies!