Snow and Ice on Steep Residential Streets

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The following was prepared to assist residents on steep residential streets in their preparations for snow and ice events.

The City is committed to maintaining the safest roads that our resources can deliver. The City also encourages residents to prepare themselves for poor street conditions and to lend assistance to others when conditions expose a neighbor to difficult conditions.

The City’s snow and ice control program is resourced based on a baseline experience of several modest snowfall events per season and relatively frequent icy condition events. The City’s program is not resourced to quickly remove snow from all City streets within a one or two day period, especially when the snowfall is heavy and when multiple snowfall events occur within a few days of one another. For these reasons, the City has developed a priority system to provide the most benefit to the largest number of residents and to apply more resources to streets whose conditions make them more difficult to travel during and after snowfall events.

The available resource level generally serves the city’s needs, but does leave some residents vulnerable to extended periods of accumulated snow and ice on streets. This is particularly evident on lightly travelled roads or on roads where limited sunlight is available to warm the street surface.

For those residents subject to extended periods of accumulated snow and ice, the City recommends that residents prepare for these conditions to supplement the efforts the City will be able to make for them. Being prepared with tire chains, all-weather or studded tires, or an alternative parking location may help residents mitigate the effects of icy roads.

The City’s snow removal plan prioritizes roads that have the highest volumes of traffic first. After these Priority 1 roadways are cleared the next priority levels serve schools, signalized intersections, emergency services, and steep grade residential streets.

For some events or series of events, the City will not get some streets cleared before traffic and/or weather conditions packs ice onto the road surface. Once this occurs, the City’s clearing methods include applying salt, which is intended to accelerate melting and provide a modest improvement in traction. The salt is made more effective by traffic, meaning on lightly travelled streets it is less effective. The result is that for some steep streets with low traffic volumes and low sunlight exposure, clearing snow and ice will not occur quickly.

This makes steep residential streets the most susceptible to frozen roadway conditions given the very low number of vehicles and the likelihood of large shaded areas. Because these roads are not a priority 1 road, vehicles that do travel these roads continue to pack down snow and ice, making it even more difficult to get to any bare pavement.
For residents who need to use a steep shaded street, the City encourages preparation for these conditions. Also being aware of approaching weather will give them an opportunity to park their vehicle at the bottom of the hill if personal transportation is imperative.

The following are a set of frequently asked questions and answers related to snow and ice conditions on our roadways.

Why can't you plow my street now?
We wish we had enough snowplows and drivers to take care of every street right away, but our resources are limited and so we must adhere to a carefully laid out system for clearing the streets. If we allowed our plows to be diverted each time a special request was made, our system would be destroyed and it would take far longer to get all the streets in the city cleared. To keep our snow removal operations as effective and efficient as possible, plows are not permitted to deviate from their assigned routes.

Can you tell me exactly when my street will be plowed?
As weather conditions change we often must alter our snow-fighting strategy in the midst of the snow removal operations in order to control ice or other special problems. We cannot give you an estimate of when your street will be cleared due to ever-changing weather conditions.

I once saw a snow plow parked in a restaurant parking lot during a bad snowstorm. Why was it there instead of on the streets working?
Snow plow operators take pride in clearing the streets on their routes as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Driving a snowplow is demanding, tiring work. Common sense and good safety practices dictate that each driver should take a 30-minute break every six hours. It is dangerous, both for the snowplow driver and the public, if a fatigued driver is behind the wheel of a snowplow. It is in the best interest of all concerned for the drivers to take occasional breaks.

I have a heart condition. Can you plow my street in case there is an emergency and an ambulance needs to get through?
The potential for a medical emergency does not warrant priority treatment. Anyone needing an ambulance in a medical emergency should contact the Police Department where all necessary steps will be coordinated.