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Policies and Planning

2016-2017 District of Columbia Winter Snow and Ice Plan

Snow operations standards, based on storm severity:

The District Snow Team expects to meet the snow performance measures, based on storm severity, for clearing snow/ice. Snow Performance Measures  [pdf]

Snow Removal Processes

Photo of snow plow truckThe District of Columbia’s snow operation is a year-round function. Planning for the next season begins in late winter/early spring and starts with an evaluation of the Snow Team’s operations during the current snow season, including staff and equipment performance, use of technology, and availability of supplies, e.g., salt, brine and beet juice.

This year’s snow/ice removal program features:

  • 800+ members of the DC Snow Team, including plow drivers, technology experts, mechanics, and quality control, safety and administrative personnel.
  • 447 pieces of snow removal equipment, including municipal plows and NHS light and heavy vehicles as well as leased equipment.
  • 42,000 tons of salt, an 8% increase over last year.
  • A new, larger capacity salt dome located on South Capitol Street, SE, replacing a smaller dome at Potomac and R Streets, SE.
  • 10 new liquid dispensing gators with plows and spreaders to pre-treat streets with a brine/beet juice mixture to retard freezing.
  • 12,500 gallons of beet juice and 30,000 tons of brine/hot mix (hot mix is the combination of brine and beet juice that is sprayed.
  • A new Automatic Vehicle Locator system loaded into all plows – municipal, contractor and rental – to show where the plows have been.

In the case of a major storm, such as Snowmaggedon and the 2016 blizzard that dropped more than 20” of snow, the District is taking the necessary actions to ensure the snow is removed from city streets and deposited in an environmentally-responsible manner in 12 sites across the city.

As in other jurisdictions, public safety determines the priority for snow removal in the District. Clearing and salting efforts focus first on major roads, commuter thoroughfares and designated Snow Emergency Routes. Streets that are narrow, steep, or shaded, receive special attention, as do those streets scheduled for next-day trash collection.

The 800+ members of the DC Snow Team (DPW, DDOT and other agencies) participated in the Dry Run training event to prepare for snow management, proper handling of materials, equipment maintenance, and equipment operation.  Plow drivers navigated through their routes, checking for steel plates, potholes and other obstacles that might be covered during a snow event.  Other staff, including administrative, supervisory, logistics and IT employees practiced their functions at their sites, including the salt domes.

The District's Snow Team is committed to faster completion of plowing and salting along major roads and residential streets, which in turn means more rapid return of normal traffic flow and earlier resumption of trash collection and other city services. Residents are reminded to please be patient and allow sufficient time for snow operations to be implemented. If their streets still have not been treated or plowed in a reasonable amount of time they should call the Mayor's Call Center at 311.

DDOT and DPW remind commuters and residents to:

  • Not drive distracted.
  • Remember that driving on ice is significantly different than driving on snow.Photo of snow covered street with vehicles
  • Use extreme caution and maintain safe speeds and distances from other vehicles.
  • Remember even a 4-wheel drive SUV does not perform well in ice and additional safety measures should be followed.
  • Be aware of road conditions, particularly black ice which can be deceptive in its appearance giving the driver a false sense of security on the road.
  • Watch for slippery bridge decks, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.
  • Remember to keep a safe distance from emergency and snow vehicles and please use caution when attempting to pass a snowplow. Give the drivers plenty of room to safely do their jobs.
  • Clear all the snow and ice from your vehicle's windows and lights — even the hood and roof — before driving.
  • Help your elderly or disabled neighbors remove snow from steps and sidewalks.
  • Clear catch basins and fire hydrants.
  • Please do not put snow in the street. Put all cleared snow, from parked cars and sidewalks, in the "tree box," front yard, or between the curb and sidewalk.

For more information on the District of Columbia Snow Removal and Treatment Plan, please visit the Useful Information section.