Snow Storm Frequently Asked Questions
When will my street be plowed?
The City conducts plowing according to a list of priorities. City crews treat and plow primary roads (which include snow emergency routes) followed by secondary routes (including hills). After these priorities are addressed, crews will begin plowing residential streets. Please remain patient and stay home until the City can treat and plow your neighborhood.
Where should I park?
Whenever possible, please move all vehicles out of parking lanes before the storm begins. This keeps roads clear for plow equipment, reduces the chance of damage to your vehicle, and prevents your vehicle from getting snowed in. If you are parked on a posted snow emergency route, your vehicle may be ticketed or towed if it is not moved. For alternate parking locations, please see alexandriava.gov/Parking.
Why did I just see a truck drive by without its plow down?
Keep in mind that you may see many trucks before, during, and after a snow storm, each of which may be operated by the City, by a contractor hired by the City, by a private property owner, or by a contractor hired by a private property owner. The City can only explain the procedures used by City staff and contractors. If a plow is up on a City or City contractor truck, it may be because the truck is beginning or ending its shift, is returning for fuel or salt, is repositioning from one priority road to another, or is applying salt so that the snow will be soft enough to plow on the next pass.
A street near mine was just plowed. Does that mean my street will be next?
The City plows and treats streets in priority order. If the street that was just plowed is at the same priority as yours (e.g. they are both residential), it is likely that your street will be plowed soon. Other factors – such as equipment maintenance, crew shifts, and refueling – may mean that there will still be a delay before crews reach your street. If the first street was a higher priority (e.g. it was a primary route and yours is a residential street, or it was a hilly street and yours is flat), the plow truck may move to another street at the same priority.
Why does it take so long to plow the streets?
The City is responsible for 521 lane miles of roadways, and that's in addition to 20 miles of sidewalks and pathways, plus public areas and facilities with significant areas of parking and assembly space. Before, during, and after a snow storm, City crews work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts, using all available equipment and personnel. Still, clearing snow is difficult work that requires crews to adapt to constantly changing conditions. Heavy snow, or even a small accumulation of ice, is very hard on plow equipment and can cause damage to plows that must be frequently inspected and repaired. Please remember that even if your street has not yet been cleared, City crews have been working as hard as possible to move through the City's road network.
Why do I often see trucks treating roadways on Friday afternoons, even when snow is not expected?
Our standard procedures for winter weather call for us to treat roadways, especially bridges and overpasses, with a brine solution on Fridays during regular hours when temperatures are expected to be near or below freezing. This helps us avoid ice on roadways and reduce the need for standby & overtime work on weekends (Alexandria Police and other public safety entities call T&ES to treat icy patches on weekends) -- we can treat streets in less time and with fewer people during regular work hours. In the end, we use less salt, spend less money, and have fewer problems with roadway ice than we did before we began this practice.
I used to live in Chicago/Buffalo/Pittsburgh, and they always did a better job responding to snow. Why can't we do better?
Alexandria typically receives 15 inches of snowfall per year, distributed across several storms during the winter months. The City's snow budget and plans are set based on this expectation, with some additional contingencies.
Why aren’t you using sand on my street?
The City very rarely uses sand. Typically, sand is used for traction on steep roadways, not to melt snow, and is used sparingly. Sand cannot be used in certain parts of the city (such as Old Town) because it drains to the older sewers and causes backups. Streets receive salt treatment to melt snow or prevent ice accumulation and are then plowed.
Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks?
Property owners and tenants are responsible for clearing the snow and ice from adjacent City sidewalks within 24-72 hours of the end of the snowfall, depending on the storm response level (Level 1 = 24 hours; Level 2 = 48 hours; Level 3 = 72 hours). During a storm, the Storm Updates Page will list the storm response level. Accessible curb ramps, sidewalks and pathways that abut publicly-owned property are cleared by crews from City departments or Alexandria City Public Schools personnel.
Please also help your community by clearing storm drains and fire hydrants adjacent to your home, and do not shovel snow into streets or onto sidewalks. Lend a hand to neighbors and others who may need your assistance. Keeping storm drains clear will help prevent flooding once the snow melts. Clearing streets, sidewalks, and fire hydrants is an important part of maintaining safe mobility for everyone, but is especially vital for public safety crews who are responding to emergencies.
When will the City enforce the sidewalk ordinance?
Any property owner who fails to clear adjacent sidewalks within the allotted time (Level 1 = 24 hours; Level 2 = 48 hours; Level 3 = 72 hours) may be subject to a $50 fine, plus the cost of the City having the sidewalk cleared. During a storm, the Storm Updates Page will list the storm response level. Complaints about compliance with the sidewalk ordinance may be made by calling 703.746.HELP (703.746.4357) or use Call.Click.Connect. City inspectors will begin responding to complaints once they have completed their initial duty of inspecting buildings and other locations for safety issues created by snow and ice falling from rooftops, loose signs, structural damage, etc.
I just cleared my car, sidewalk, and driveway, and then City crews plowed my street and snowed me in again. Why can't snow be plowed towards the center or median of the street?
Most residential streets have only one or two travel lanes, so there is not enough room to plow snow to the middle of the street. In larger storms, it may be impossible to avoid pushing snow onto the sidewalk or your driveway from the street. Please be prepared to clear driveways and sidewalks more than one time to fully clear all snow from your property. Do not shovel snow into the street, or it will just be plowed back again. You can help prevent snow from piling up around your vehicles by removing them from the street before the storm, if possible. Assist our fire department by making sure you also dig out around fire hydrants. Please refrain from blocking streets or barricading parking spaces. Keeping streets clear helps Fire and EMS respond to emergencies.
How can I stay safe in the snow?
During extreme winter weather, the best way to protect your health and safety is to stay prepared and indoors as much as possible. Have the food, medicine, and other supplies on hand before a storm that you may need for up to a week. Stay off the roads – whether in a vehicle or on foot – whenever you can. If you must go outside, dress appropriately for the weather in layers. Strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of illness and injury, especially heart attacks. Know the warning signs of a heart attack. If you or someone you are with exhibits these signs, call 911 right away. To help avoid illness or injury when clearing snow, follow these guidelines. Keep in mind these tips for Food Safety After The Power Goes Out, and Roof Safety During Winter Weather.
Whom can I contact for help?
If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. For other emergencies related to the snow storm, call 703.746.HELP (703.746.4357) or use Call.Click.Connect. Please do not call this number to ask when your street will be plowed; see the above information regarding street-clearing priorities. Complaints about compliance with the sidewalk ordinance may also be made by calling 703.746.HELP (703.746.4357).