It's Wednesday!

  • Greetings from the gray Pacific Northwest time vortex we call February.

🌧️ Today's weather: Showers. High near 51.

Today's newsletter is 892 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Red light doesn't mean "turn right"

Photo: Courtesy of SDOT

Seattle has added 73 intersections where right turns are banned at red lights, increasing its number of no-right-on-red signals by almost 75% since last year.

Why it matters: Drivers turning right on red are more likely to fail to yield to pedestrians and crash than drivers who turn when lights are green, some studies have found.

Yes, but: Many Seattle drivers seem unclear about the recent changes, judging by the level of honking at some of these intersections.

By the numbers: At the start of 2023, Seattle had about 100 intersections with "No Turn on Red" signs, according to the city Department of Transportation.

  • Now, there are 173 such intersections citywide.
  • The new no-right-on-red signals are located mostly downtown and along Aurora Avenue North.
  • Many intersections were updated between June and December, although others had signs posted earlier in the year.

The big picture: City officials are making "no turn on red" the default for new or upgraded traffic signals going forward.

  • It's part of the city's plan to reach its "Vision Zero" goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030.

What they're saying: "Let's not trade people's safety so people in cars can save a few seconds of waiting for their turn to go," SDOT director Greg Spotts said in a recent blog post.

Of note: In Seattle, right-turn-on-red crashes made up about 9% of all crashes with people walking at signal intersections from 2016 to 2020, according to the city.

Meanwhile, other cities, such as Denver and San Francisco, have been considering citywide bans on right turns on red.

  • Last year, Washington, D.C. passed a ban that will take effect in 2025, while Atlanta's City Council approved a ban Monday that will apply to some city neighborhoods.

What's next: SDOT plans to add more no-right-turn on red signs at Seattle intersections later this year, but hasn't decided exactly where.

The bottom line: Stop honking and look up. You just might see a sign.

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2. What the new La Niña watch means for Washington

Probability of El Niño or La Niña
Data: NOAA; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The strong El Niño pattern that was predicted to usher in some of the Pacific Northwest's hottest temperatures ever this summer is fading, with climatologists watching for signs of the cooler La Niña phase.

Why it matters: The onset of La Niña could suppress global temperatures, potentially preventing the record-breaking heat forecast for 2024.

Driving the news: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a La Niña watch earlier this month, indicating that the current strong El Niño may be ending this summer, with a 77% chance of a La Niña developing by fall, writes Axios' Andrew Freedman.

What's happening: While the shift may seem abrupt, there's a historical pattern of La Niña events following strong El Niño episodes, said Michelle L'Heureux, a physical scientist at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Zoom in: Warm and dry are still the watchwords for Washington and Oregon this summer, as the influence of La Niña is not expected to hit until around September, interim Washington state climatologist Karin Bumbaco told Axios.

Yes, but: A La Niña winter at the end of 2024 is potentially very good news for Washington's snowpack, which determines water supply and is arguably the most crucial climate-related variable in the Pacific Northwest, Bumbaco said.

  • Snowpack in the Olympic Mountains is currently around 32% of median values, 50% in the North Cascades and 60–75% in the Southern Cascades, per Bumbaco.

Go deeper

3. Morning Buzz: Mayor pooh-poohs new taxes

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🏙️ In his state of the city address yesterday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell appeared to rule out new taxes as a way to resolve the city's budget shortfall, saying that "passing a new or expanded tax will not address the fundamental issues needed to close this gap in the long run." (Seattle Times)

🏥 A woman is out of the hospital and recovering from serious injuries after she and four other cyclists were attacked by a cougar in eastern King County over the weekend. (KIRO 7)

4. Highlights from India

The Taj Mahal in Agra. Photo: Christine Clarridge/Axios

👋🏼 Clarridge here! I loved India and wanted to share a few memories from my trip, which was the best of my life (despite getting COVID on the plane home).

Here are a few favorite moments, in no particular order.

The Taj Mahal

You know how some places are diminished when you see them in person? Not so with this Mughal mausoleum in Agra.

  • It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

The Ganga

Watching cremations at the Manikarnika Ghat along the bank of the Ganges River in Varanasi while Hindu chants were sung is something I will never forget.

  • The river smelled clean and sweet from the boat, even though during the day it looked muddy and had candles, flowers and other debris along the edges.
  • Despite advice to the contrary, I couldn't resist getting in, though I did not put my head under.
30,000 to 40,000 people are fed daily at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple in India
Anyone can make and serve food at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple in Delhi, where 30,000 to 40,000 people are fed daily. Photo: Christine Clarridge/Axios

A homecoming

I went with my daughter, who has Armenian and Persian ancestry, and we were both amazed at how many people asked if she was Indian. (Northern India had strong trade ties with Armenia, Afghanistan and Persia and some of that can be seen in the features of the people.)

  • She said it felt as if the smells were all familiar and that she was "home."

A pharmacy mishap

Somehow, I ended up with a lifetime supply of Cialis, though I had intended to buy just four tabs (not four boxes).

Tell a friend

😡 Melissa is tired of getting honked at along Jackson Street and elsewhere when she tries to obey one of the new no-right-on red signs.

😷 Clarridge is so happy to be home and on the mend. This round of COVID was way worse than her first encounter, so definitely don't get complacent, she says.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Egan Millard.