NEWS GLEAMS: Record-Setting Heat, West Seattle Bridge Repair Developments, and More!

curated by Emerald Staff

A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle! 

Seattle Sees (and Feels) Hottest Day on Record

During the recent heatwave, on Monday, June 28, 2021, the National Weather Service (NWS) station at SeaTac recorded 108 degrees Fahrenheit — the highest temp on record for Seattle.

The highest temp ever recorded in Seattle prior to Sunday, June 27, 2021, which is the day we broke the last record (with a 104-degree reading at SeaTac), was a balmy 103 recorded in 2009. This year, roadway pavement even expanded and buckled in some places due to the heat in Seattle, nearby, and elsewhere in the state, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. 

Ahead of and during the historic heatwave, the South End saw folks rallying to raise money to purchase bottled water and coordinating with one another to distribute water to those who needed it most in their community, posting asks and offers of supplies and support to neighborhood Facebook groups and even descending on a SoDo industrial site to rescue fledgling sea birds fleeing their nests on the overheating roof of T106, a property owned by the Port of Seattle.

While the historic heatwave is now behind us, temperatures are still expected to be in the low-to-high 80s through the weekend, according to the NWS. Take a gander at this King County guide to staying safe in hot weather that includes info on vehicle safety — “Do not leave infants, children, people with mobility challenges and pets in a parked car, even with the window rolled down” — signs of heat exhaustion, which can be difficult to self-diagnose and can lead to heat stroke, and much more. They even have a handy pamphlet available in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Chinese. Stay safe, South End!

The West Seattle Bridge under construction in 1983. (Seattle Municipal Archives; CC BY 2.0 license)

West Seattle Bridge Project Receives Federal Grant Funding

The West Seattle Bridge got a lifeline in a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The $11.2 million awarded for the project will help pay for repairs to the bridge as well as those needed on the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (also known as the Low Bridge). 

In a blog post on June 28, Katie Olson of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) writes that the grant was awarded through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, which “funds transportation projects of national and regional significance that are in line with the Biden Administration’s principles for national infrastructure projects that result in good-paying jobs, improve safety, apply transformative technology, and explicitly address climate change and racial equity.”
The bridge is slated to reopen sometime in the middle of 2022. Learn more about the West Seattle Bridge Program, which includes repairs and rehabilitation for both the West Seattle High and Low Bridges and changes to public access to give drivers more options for traveling to and from West Seattle through SoDo on the SDOT website.

Original image by Ballista (via Wikimedia Commons; used here under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license).

Your Car, Catalytic Converter Theft, and You: Auto-Part Thieves May Be Armed

The catalytic converter, an element of an automobile exhaust system, is a car part that has been disappearing at alarming rates from consumer-owned vehicles since 2020. Annual thefts of these pollutant-reducing auto parts grew exponentially last year, and the sheer number of thefts so far in 2021 indicate another doozy of a year for car owners. The cylindrical metal auto parts, which range in size from akin to a loaf of bread to the giant jugs of cooking oil they sell at Costco, are stolen because they contain precious metals and the “scrap” parts can be recycled, legitimately or illegitimately, for a pretty penny.

It’s a bold endeavor, stealing a catalytic converter, but if successful, many car owners don’t even know the part has been stripped until the next time they start their car and a strange cacophony roars around them. When thieves remove the catalytic converter, they create a sizable gap in the exhaust system, changing the sound emitted from the exhaust manifold. The noise is a tell-tale sign the part has been removed. 

In order to access the part, thieves sometimes have to jack up a vehicle to remove it, and they might use some type of wrench or even a power tool that can saw through metal. Some car owners have recently caught thieves in the act and had violent encounters with them.

Seattle Police Department reports that early Monday morning, June 28, a Rainier Beach resident heard a sawing sound, and when he went outside to check it out, he caught two men at his car, a Toyota Prius — and a prime target for these thefts, as they are apparently among vehicles that it’s easier to steal the part from. The suspects fled the scene but one of them fired a gun through the getaway car’s sunroof.
The best advice SPD had to offer to the community in this particular report to prevent the thefts was “to try and park their vehicle inside a garage or a well-lit, highly visible area,” and they noted that car owners can also buy devices that secure the catalytic converter, making it harder for people to steal. Many authorities on the topic agree that it’s better to let a thief get away with your property than to confront them and attempt to stop them if you catch them in the act, as the suspect(s) may be armed and dangerous, and the property — in this case, worth up to a couple thousand dollars — is likely not worth your life.

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