It snowed last week in Seattle. Having grown up in the area, I will attest that it was a significant storm for the area but far less concerning than the reports that were put out across the wires.

As many of my friends in these parts are also Chicago transplants, we shared a collective chuckle around the mesmerizing general reaction to what is typically referred to as “slight snowfall” on an average winter day in Chicago. One of the main issues is that it simply does not snow but a few times each year in Seattle (good thing) but when it does, the city shuts down completely due to a lack of resources and preparation. It had me recalling some messy mornings from my old life in Chicago where I was simply unable to dig my car out.

Snow-filled Seattle last week.

Fittingly, a friend pointed me towards Chicago Shovels last weekend –  a new initiative by the City of Chicago that provides an interactive resource to help residents deal with the city’s typically treacherous winter.

My expectations were low knowing that I was about to visit a city run site – notorious for poor user experience and slow technology adoption. I was wrong. What makes the site strong in my book is the degree of practical social and digital integration. There is a “Plow Tracker” to help residents keep tabs on real-time street clearing activity as well as a number of integrated apps (including a Tow Tracker to help you find where your car has been “relocated” – imperative in a city that loves to tow) and even SMS alerts to stay updated.

While my bet would be that an agency helped the city with some of the marketing content, full kudos to the team for developing useful video content to help users navigate the site.

Though Seattle does not have the frequency of snow to warrant a full on platform like this, Chicago Shovels is a great model for other snow-laden cities to follow in implementing a smart communications platform that fits the baseline communication needs for residents.

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