A few weeks ago, I received quite a few emails / inquiries from my constituents about the ways City’s Public Works department does the snow plowing job. I thought it’d be a good idea to share the inner working of that operation so that we all know how things are executed in the events of snow. You can read the entire document here: Snow plan FY14. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
Snow Plan – General Information
The City of College Park snow and ice removal plan includes equipment, materials and personnel supplied by the Public Works Department. The City maintains approximately 55 road miles, or over 165 lane miles, of roadways. The City has a covered salt storage structure that can hold about 500 tons of rock salt, and two 2,500-gallon storage tanks for liquid deicing material.
The snow plan will go into effect upon the order of the City Manager or the Director of Public Works. The plan consists of an Alert Phase and an Operation Phase. Snow or icy precipitation, which requires roadway treatment, will be considered an emergency under the operational phase. The City has established a “Bare Road” policy. Snow removal and/or remedial work will be continued until this policy goal has been reached.
Prior to November 15th, salt spreading and snow removal equipment will be tested and stored in a ready condition. Personnel will receive training related to snow and ice removal procedures.
Snow-Ice Fighting Techniques
The method of fighting a winter storm is determined by several factors: temperature, condition of pavement (wet, dry or icy), type of precipitation at the beginning of the storm and the storm forecast. The Public Works department will implement procedures such as sealcoating that will be most effective to address roadway safety and weather conditions.
Salting operations are imperative as a first measure. The purpose of applying salt is to form a brine solution to prevent the precipitation (snow/ice) from bonding to the pavement. Formation of the salt brine on the roadway may take up to one half hour after application; it is important that the roadway not be plowed during this time in allow the brine solution to form. Precipitation, which accumulates on an untreated road surface, may become compacted by traffic and bond to the road creating a “hardpack” that becomes very difficult to remove. Salt is not intended to melt snow.
Salt, spread alone or in combination with liquid deicing products, applied to the roadway under snow or ice contributes to a reasonable effort in achieving the “bare road” policy. The combination of salt and liquid deicing products allow salt to remain effective at lower temperatures and retard the development of a “hardpack” layer. Salt spread on top of accumulated snow gets plowed away; therefore effective salt applications should be made when snow accumulation is 1-inch or less.
Twenty-Four Hour Snow Removal Plan
Since weather conditions are very unpredictable, the methods used to fight a winter storm will vary from one event to another. Public Works staff includes 20 employees with Commercial Drivers Licenses, 14 laborers, 8 administrative support staff and 3 mechanics. A senior operator will be assigned to load salt into trucks; a dispatcher will monitor radio communications and at least one mechanic will be on duty. Administrative staff will monitor conditions on City streets and man the operation center. Personnel may be divided into 2 shifts to effectively respond to a snow emergency. Five/six dump trucks, with V-boxes, are equipped with liquid deicing tanks. Liquid deicing material is used in conjunction with salt spread on the roadway to improve the melting effectiveness of rock salt at lower temperatures.
If snow begins during the workday, personnel shall be diverted from scheduled assignments to begin snow removal operations*. Personnel will be assigned a designated route and continue to service their route, with appropriate breaks, until they have worked a total of 12 hours, if needed. Other crews will be dispatched to treat and clear parking areas and sidewalks. Personnel not selected for the first shift will be ranked in accordance with Union contract overtime regulations and scheduled to return to work at specified times. Depending upon the severity of the snowfall, relief personnel will be scheduled to report when the first shift is scheduled to be relieved.
If snow begins during non-working hours employees will be scheduled in accordance with the City’s agreement with the Union. Personnel will report to prepare for snow removal operations based on the weather forecast. As weather conditions deteriorate, additional personnel will be called in for the first shift of snow removal operations. They will work up to twelve hours, if needed, and be relieved by a second shift of personnel. The third shift will be made up of personnel who worked the first shift.
* Refuse and recycling collection will continue as long as tipping facilities are open.
Parking by Residents During Snow Events
1. Park off the street whenever possible so plows can clear snow to the curb.
2. Park on the EVEN side of the street if off-street parking is not available. Exception: if a resident’s address is odd-numbered and the area across from their house is undeveloped, park on the odd side of the street.
3. Park close to the curb. Vehicles parked more than 12” from the curb may be ticketed or even towed, as this severely inhibits the passage of snow plow trucks. Vehicles parked in the middle of the street will be ticketed and towed. If ever your car gets stuck in the snow or any other emergency, you can reach out to towingless.com 24/7.
Determination of Phases
Initiation of snow response phases will be determined from information broadcast on the weather channel, news reports on local television and radio stations, as well as internet sources, and physical observations of City road conditions.
The Alert Phase shall be initiated when the weather forecast calls for winter precipitation. The following steps will be followed:
1. The Director of Public Works or his /her designee will alert the Operations Supervisor that inclement weather is forecast. Key personnel will be scheduled to report to work.
2. A “Snow Control Center” will be opened at Davis Hall and staffed. Weather reports will be monitored, and personnel will be assigned to observe changing road conditions.
3. Snow equipment will be completely checked prior to leaving the Public Works yard. An equipment inspection shall include:
• All fluids and fuel levels; check underneath vehicle for signs of leaks
• Tire condition
• Vehicle lights, including warning beacon
• Windshield wipers, heater and defroster
• Steering and brakes, including air pressure
• Two-way radio test operation
• Salt spinner or auger and liquid deicing equipment operation and calibration
4. Salt will be loaded in vehicles as evenly as possible and shall not be loaded higher than the sideboard. Liquid deicing material will be pumped into tanks on vehicles.
This phase shall go into effect when snow or icy conditions occur. Additional personnel will be called to work and remain active until relief arrives. Personnel relieved from snow activities may be required to remain at the Public Works facility. Cots and food will be provided as available.
The following steps will be followed:
1. Snow removal equipment will be dispatched to predetermined routes when snow or ice is imminent. Salting operations will begin at the onset of precipitation.
2. Snow removal routes are divided into primary and secondary streets. Primary streets will be treated and/or cleared first, followed by secondary streets.
3. When snow reaches, or threatens to reach, 2-inch depths, plowing operations will commence. Salt will be used only after streets have been plowed to 1-inch depth of snow.
4. Initially, one lane will be plowed on all streets followed by widening of the plowed lane. All streets will be plowed curb to curb, as conditions allow.