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Snow

FAQ

Snow

When should residents and businesses begin removing the snow from the sidewalk?  

Within six hours of the end of a snowfall or freezing rain, you must clear a path at least 36 inches wide on your sidewalk, including curb cuts. Do not shovel or sweep the snow into the street. The penalty for violating this regulation can range from a minimum fine of $50 up to $300 for each violation. To report a sidewalk or curb cut that has not been cleared, residents may call the Streets Department Customer Affairs Unit at (215) 686-5560. For all City services dial, 3-1-1.
How does the City prepare for the snow and ice season?  

During the year, Streets Department employees prepare for snow removal by stockpiling tons of salt, sand, and chemicals at strategic locations. In addition, equipment is tested on dry runs, employees are given special training, snow routes are driven, and private individuals and companies with heavy equipment are contracted and placed on standby if needed to help with snow removal. 
What roads is the City responsible for clearing?   

The Streets Department's Highway Division maintains a total of 2,525 miles of City and 50 State roads in Philadelphia. 
What is applied to slippery roads in winter?  

In preparation for snow, Streets Department crews apply a brine solution, which helps prevent icing. Salt, calcium chloride, anti-skid materials or a combination of these are applied during snow and ice removal operations. Salt and calcium chloride help to melt the snow or ice, but calcium chloride, which is very expensive, is only used when temperatures fall below 20°F. Anti-skid materials provide traction and are made of sand, fine stone, and washed cinders. The amount and kinds of material used are determined by the road surface and severity of the storm.
Why do trucks move so slowly while plowing and spreading anti-skid material?  

The driver must adjust his or her vehicle speed according to conditions. If traveling too fast, anti-skid materials will not stay on the road. Passing a snowplow can be extremely dangerous. There is never a safe time to pass, but if you must, do so with extreme caution. 
What is a safe distance to follow behind a plow truck?  

The safe distance between any two vehicles (the two-second rule) should be doubled during inclement weather. 
Do bridges freeze before road surfaces do?  

Yes, the air below bridges tends to cool the bridge faster than the ground below roadways. 
What is black ice?  

Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice not always visible on the roadway. 
Why do snowplows block my driveway with snow when they clear the road?  

We are sorry for this inconvenience, but to make roads passable as quickly as possible, there is no way to avoid it. The City's snowplow operators push the snow off the roadway in smooth, continuous passes, and the snow ends up in gutters and on road shoulders, sometimes blocking driveways and small streets. To avoid double work, try to shovel snow from your driveway as you face the road. 
How does the City decide which roads to clear first?  

Roads carrying the most traffic get top priority. Snow Emergency Routes and most primary roads are cleared first. Secondary roads with high traffic volumes also receive early snow-removal attention. 

Top priority roadways, or snow emergency routes, are highways designated by the City for immediate snow removal, so emergency vehicles can use them. Once the snow stops and the main roads are clear, residential streets will be salted and/or plowed. 

I sometimes see City trucks driving with their snowplows up when it's snowing. Why?  

There are several reasons plows don't always push snow. Trucks may be spreading salt and sand, or they may be out of sand and salt and headed back to refill. Or, they may be in route to their assigned area. Be assured, once it snows, City crews work around the clock until the roads are in good shape. 
When will all roads be passable after a storm?  

Our goal is to make all roads passable as quickly as possible after a storm ends. The city's snow removal crews work around the clock until all conditions are safe for traveling. 
Why does the City not put salt on the roads before it snows?  

Putting salt on road before a snowfall wastes time and money, since the salt blows right off the road. Salt is most effective after the snow has accumulated about an inch and the temperature is 20° F/-6 C or higher. Under these conditions, salt and snow mix into a slush that can easily be cleared.