During the winter months, City of Staunton Public Works snow plow operators work hard and with great care to make roads safe for the public. No matter how careful operators are, snow and ice control operations may cause some inconveniences to residents. At times, they may also cause property damage. Here are some questions you might have about snow removal on City streets.
- How does the city decide which streets get plowed first?
- Why do the city snow plows push snow into my driveway and who is responsible for clearing it?
- I just shoveled my driveway. Why did the city snow plow push snow on it?
- I just shoveled my sidewalk. Why did the city snow plow push snow on it?
- Why is the snow plow operator driving so fast considering the road conditions?
- Can snow from my driveway be pushed across the street?
- When does my sidewalk need to be cleared and whose responsibility is it?
- Who do I contact if a city snow plow hits my mailbox?
- What if landscaping or irrigation in the right of way is damaged?
- Who do I contact if a city snow plow damages my lawn?
- What if we have an emergency during a snow storm?
- 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?
- Why can't you plow my street now?
- Can you tell me exactly when my street will be plowed?
- Why don't the trucks plow and salt on the way to their routes?
The Department of Public Works plows 65 lane miles of main arterials and 221 lane miles of local residential streets. Typically, plowing begins when snowfall accumulates 3 inches or more. Crews start by plowing the main arterials for emergency vehicle access. These are plowed before starting on residential streets. Please understand that every street cannot be cleared at the same time. Under ideal circumstances, we can predict fairly accurately when we will have streets in various sections of the City 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 drifting snow, ice or other special problems. We cannot give you an estimate of when your street will be cleared due to ever-changing weather conditions.
Because of normal snow plowing operations, snow may be placed in your driveway unavoidably. Plows are angled to the right for plowing from the centerline of the street to the curb. For this reason, a certain amount of snow will be deposited in driveways. Snow left in driveways or on sidewalks by the city while snow plowing is the residents and owners responsibility to remove.
When plowing, the snow may end up on the driveway you just shoveled. We apologize for the inconvenience this causes you. If your schedule permits, you may want to wait and clear your driveway after city plows have passed through your street. If it is a significant snowfall, the snowplows will probably be back to make multiple passes. Streets are typically opened with one pass through, so that streets can be made passable for drivers as soon as practical. Snowplows may return to open the street curb-to-curb. This is done to clear areas for on-street parking and to allow melting snow to drain into catch basins. We regret that you may find some of this snow on your recently shoveled driveway and you have to shovel it again. There are 10,000+ driveways in the City. If we used all of our plows and spent just 60 seconds per driveway, it would take several days to clean driveways alone.
SNOW REMOVAL TIP
… If your driveway is cleared before the street is completed, clear the area to the right of the driveway if you are facing the house, (the oncoming side). When the plow comes by the snow will dump in this clear area instead of your driveway approach. The more snow you clear from this area, the less will be deposited at your driveway entrance. To also minimize the problem, pile the snow that has been shoveled from the driveway on the DOWNSTREAM side of the driveway. Then if the snowplow hits this pile, it will be moved onto the grass or sidewalk, not back into your driveway. We do not come back and plow out any driveway entrances.
Some areas of the city have narrow public rights of way. When plowing, the snow may end up on the sidewalk you just shoveled. We apologize for the inconvenience this causes you. If your schedule permits, you may want to wait and clear your sidewalk after city plows have passed through your street. If it is a significant snowfall, the snowplows will probably be back. Streets are typically opened with one pass through, so that streets can be made passable for drivers as soon as possible. Snowplows may return to open the street curb-to-curb. This is done to clear areas for on-street parking, where it is permitted, and to allow melting snow to drain into catch basins. We regret that you may find some of this snow on your recently shoveled sidewalk and you have to shovel it again.
Snow plows are emergency vehicles, but typically do not exceed the posted speed limit. Snow plows are large, noisy pieces of equipment. It may appear at times that the snow plow operator is driving too fast for road conditions. Many times the engine sound and noise of the plow scraping the pavement give the perception that the truck is flying down the street, when in actuality, they are only moving at 15 to 20 miles per hour. The plows do move faster on open stretches of road to push the snow farther off of the road to ensure there is sufficient space to stack the snow from the next storm. Please remember – do not follow snow plows too closely and give them plenty of room.
Snow may not be pushed into or across the street from private property, according to city code. Please keep this in mind when clearing your driveway. If you hire a private service to clear your driveway, let the contractor know.
Residents and owners are reminded to remove snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall and to use salt or another abrasive on sidewalk ice within 12 hours after ice forms. The city opens sidewalks in some higher volume pedestrian traffic areas including downtown and in areas around schools. Even if the city does this, you are still responsible for making sure the sidewalk next to your property is maintained and clear enough for everyone to use, including those in wheelchairs.
If your mailbox gets struck by a city snow plow during operations, please contact the Public Works Department at 332-3892 on normal business days between 8:00am and 4:30pm. A Public Works staff person will review the incident with you. If the damage is caused by the city, the box will be replaced with a standard unit. The city uses a 4”x 4” wood post and a standard design metal mail box for replacements. Sorry, but the city will not repair or replace decorative mailboxes and decorative posts. Non-standard mailboxes and enclosures placed in the public right of way are at the owner’s risk and responsibility.
Remember not to landscape with rocks, bricks, timbers, shrubs and other items in the right of way. Snow plows and sidewalk plows could cause damage and we do not repair or replace landscape materials. Some residents have irrigation in the right of way. This is done at the owner’s risk and responsibility. Keep any irrigation heads away from the edges of the sidewalk. Sidewalk snow plow blades are a little wider than the sidewalk in some areas.
If a city snow plow or sidewalk plow causes lawn damage, please contact Public Works at 332-3892. You will be placed on a list for spring clean-up once all the snow is melted. Sod and grass damage is restored by city crews with top soil and grass seed.
The Public Works Department works closely with the Staunton Police Department, Staunton Fire Department, and Staunton Augusta Rescue Squad. Anytime they have an emergency that requires snow removal assistance, one of the plowing crews is pulled from their regular route to respond as quickly as possible.
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 the all concerned for the drivers to take occasional breaks.
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 do not deviate from their assigned routes. Main arterial streets have first priority for snow plowing, followed by connector, collector streets, and then residential streets.
Under ideal circumstances, we can predict fairly accurately when we will have streets in various sections of the City 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 drifting snow, ice or other special problems. We cannot give you an estimate of when your street will be cleared due to ever-changing weather conditions.
Each snowplow has an assigned route. If the trucks spread salt on their way to their destination, then they wouldn't have enough to spread along their own route. Plowing along the way would mean it would be just that much longer until the truck reached its assigned route.
The City of Staunton Public Works Department thanks you for your patience and understanding during the winter season.