Objects useful in emergency situations such as natural disasters. Top view.

The South End Guide to Winter Preparedness

by Victor Simoes

In 2021, Seattle saw its coldest day in 73 years, and this year, winter does not seem to be getting any easier. La Ninã, the leading global weather driver for the upcoming winter season for the third winter in a row, tends to bring cooler and wetter conditions to the season. With three of the last four years having record-breaking or record-tying snow events, this winter is set to continue the pattern, according to The Climate Prediction Center.

Last week’s snow, even though short, left thousands of Seattle residents without power, causing delays and crashes on roads and bringing down tree limbs, giving a preview of what is to come in the following months. Brush up on your emergency winter preparedness knowledge with this Emerald guide that includes tips and helpful resources in the event of below-freezing temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. 

Know of any other essential tips for the cold season that should be on our list? Send us a tip at Community@SeattleEmerald.org.

Prepare in Advance 

Before the storm strikes, ensure your home, workplace, and vehicles are stocked with the necessary supplies in the event of a power outage.

The Washington State Department of Transportation recommends that an essential kit for your car should include a flashlight, batteries, a blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, a first-aid kit, jumper cables, flares, and tire chains (for instructions on installing tire chains, check this tutorial video made by British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation). 

Don’t forget to check your home emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. (Keep foods that have a long storage life; that require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration in case utilities are disrupte;, and that are not very salty or spicy, as these foods increase the need for drinking water, which may be in short supply.) Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days’ notice to prepare.

Also check out the American Red Cross’ list of what should be in your survival kit, including first aid, medications, and flashlights, and a ton of other helpful tips. 

Protect your pipes from freezing by opening cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate into the plumbing. If possible, keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night. Be sure to alert a trusted neighbor if you’ll be away for more than a few days, and ask them to check periodically to ensure that the measures you have taken to prevent frozen pipes work and that nothing has ruptured.

Critical Updates and Training Resources

The City of Seattle offers a range of resources to help prepare for and be aware of emergencies, including extreme weather conditions. 

By subscribing to AlertSeattle, you can receive texts, emails, and phone alerts about possible dangerous situations in your neighborhood and commonly frequented places, such as work and schools. 

Other valuable resources offered by the City of Seattle include:

Another great resource is the Rainier Beach Ready Hub, a group of South End neighbors and volunteers. Part of the Seattle Emergency Communications Hubs Network, this group offers community training for emergency response in situations of natural disasters. This year’s hubs involved training on preparing for major earthquakes. Follow Rainier Beach Ready Hub on Facebook for plenty of helpful preparedness tips, safety info, and more.


Even though most overnight shelters are not available all winter long, King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) offers regularly updated lists of shelters throughout King County. The KCRHA website also provides a map with indoor warming spaces. Sometimes, warming centers may change, so check the map to confirm.

Some warming centers in South Seattle include:

Beacon Hill Branch – The Seattle Public Library
2821 Beacon Ave. S. #5813, Seattle, WA 98144
Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday,10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.

Jefferson Community Center
3801 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98108
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m to 9 p.m.

Columbia Branch – The Seattle Public Library
4721 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday,10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.

NewHolly Branch – The Seattle Public Library
7058 32nd Ave. S. #104, Seattle, WA 98118
Monday and Tuesday, 1 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.

Rainier Beach Branch – The Seattle Public Library
9125 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
Monday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.

YouthCare South Seattle Youth Center
9416 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
24 hours (except Wednesday, CLOSED from 12:45 to 3 p.m.) 
Youth only (ages 12 to 24)

Mutual Aid 

A big part of being prepared includes knowing where to find support. Check out our Emerald Mutual Aid Groups Guide for helpful information about where you can find assistance. Mutual aid groups provide supplies, food, clothing, or other resources given freely by community members and neighbors, not from nonprofits or other organizations. You can check the Emerald guide for specific services offered, and if you’re interested in giving, there’s info on donating and volunteering.

Some examples include:

(North) Beacon Hill Mutual Aid
This group provides warming kits and propane for cooking in winter. It delivers propane tanks to over 20 people weekly, helping keep them warm and safe in sometimes deadly temperatures. 

Homies Helping Homies Seattle
This mutual aid group distributes winter duffel bags that include food, heating supplies, personal hygiene items, and more. The group is currently asking for specific items and monetary donations to continue crafting and distributing these bags. You can reach out and find more information on its Instagram page.

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: Plan ahead for power outages and extreme weather alerts this winter. Check out our South End Guide for Winter Preparedness to brush up on your emergency knowledge and find out how to help those in need. (Photo: photka/Shutterstock.com)

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