When it snows and sleets, city crews respond around the clock in 12-hour shifts to plow snow and ice-covered streets, and repair equipment. The City has more than 60 employees who use nearly 30 pieces of snow removal equipment throughout the City. Salt is stockpiled ready for use during the winter. During a winter storm, snow removal crews give first priority to main thoroughfares, main routes to Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital, and public transit routes.
Once these routes are clear, crews begin working on residential neighborhood and subdivision streets.
Driving and Parking Guidelines
The City asks residents to keep in mind the following guidelines for driving and parking in winter conditions:
- Avoid parking on the street. Snowplows can't fully clear the street with cars in the way.
- Avoid unnecessary travel when crews are clearing snow and ice from the roadways.
- Do not attempt to pass snowplows and stay at least 100 feet behind them.
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles.
- Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.
- When driving on ice, turn slowly, and do not slam on your brakes. Sudden changes can cause your car to spin out of control.
Sidewalk Snow Removal for Residents and Businesses
Harrisonburg is a pedestrian-friendly community and it is important to have clear sidewalks for those biking or walking as a mode of transportation and able to do so safely. Sidewalks that are not clear of snow may force pedestrians to walk in the street, which is not safe.
Residents, business owners, and property owners must clear snow from the sidewalk in front of their home or business (City Code Section 6-1-15):
- Within 24 hours if snowfall is six inches or less.
- Within 36 hours if snowfall is greater than six inches.
The times begin after the snow has stopped falling.
If the occupant or property owner fails to clean off the sidewalk and if Public Works is notified of this uncleared sidwalk (notification must be address specific), a notice of violation will be given. After 24 hours of the notice being given, if the sidewalk is still not clear, the City will clear the sidewalk at the owner's expense.
Snow Removal from Driveways Tip
Snowplows push snow, they do not remove it. Snow mounds are created each time the trucks plow the street, including the final pass after the snow stops falling. Unfortunately, if you clear the snow mounds before the final pass, trucks will create another snow mound on its next pass.
If you must shovel before that final pass, it will help if you shovel snow to the right side of your driveway as you stand facing the street. It also helps to clear an area to the left of your driveway (hashed area in diagram) to give the snow blade of the plow a place to empty before it gets to your driveway. This way you won't have to do the same job twice. Remember to stretch, take breaks, and stay dry as you work on digging your way out of the snow.
Please do not throw shoveled snow into the street. Depositing snow or ice into a plowed street causes severe safety hazards for motorists. Individuals who cause a hazard in the roadway may be liable for any damages caused by this activity. Depositing snow into the street is also a violation of City Code Section 6-2-5.
Public Works crews operate on 12-hour shifts. The day shift starts at 7:00am and continues to 7:00pm when the night shift relieves the day shift and continues through the night until 7:00am. Crews operate from two designated staging facilities (Mosby Road Shop in the southern end of the city and Park View Shops in the northwestern section of the city).
Public Works staff is trained to follow a snow and ice response plan with the primary goal of ensuring public safety, and access to emergency facility as primary goal. City streets are designated as Priority 1, Priority 2, or Priority 3 routes, as shown in the adjacent map. (select image to view full size or [928MB] View PDF of salt and plow routes.)
Prior to a storm event, Public Works crews pre-treat hilly sections of streets and problem intersections with a brine solution to prevent a bond from forming between the pavement and the snow and ice when the storm starts.
Once the storm has started, the main focus is to clear Priority 1 routes and continue doing so until all Priority Routes are clear before moving to Priority 2 routes. The city plows these routes first to give emergency responders the greatest access across the city. It also allows citizens to travel no more than two to three blocks before having access to a cleared street. Priority 3 routes, consisting of remaining residential streets, are the last to receive snow removal efforts.
It is the goal of the snow and ice removal efforts to obtain the following results: snowfall of less than six inches should be cleared within 24 hours after the storm has ceased; snowfall of six to ten inches should be cleared within 48 hours; snowfall between ten and fifteen inches should be cleared within 72 hours; and greater snowfalls will be governed by the conditions that exist.
Note: Conditions that may affect snow removal effectiveness are: the time the event hits, the type of event (wet or dry snow, sleet or freezing rain), the rate of accumulation, temperatures, equipment and personnel availability.
Step 1 - Brine Pre-Treatment
The first step in the response plan is to pre-treat, if conditions are suitable. If rain is forecasted, staff will hold off on applying pre-treatment to prevent stormwater runoff and wasting the product. Applying brine (a concentrated salt and water mix) as pre-treatment prevents a bond from forming between the road and snow and ice - a liquid barrier is instead formed. This barrier increases the effectiveness of plowing operations. Vehicle traffic spreads the liquid out on roadways and reduces snow to a more plowable slush. Brine also lessens the amount of salt needed once the snowstorm begins. For this reason, staff attempts to pre-treat on the designated routes as close to the storm event as possible.
Step 2 - Plow and Apply De-Icing Salt as needed
The second step is to plow and apply salt as needed onto priority routes. Equipment is calibrated annually to increase efficiency of salt application. It is in the best interest of the City to limit salt application due to the cost of salt and the environmental concerns associated with snowmelt and runoff. As priority routes are cleared, the City will move onto residential routes. Residential routes do not receive salt application unless there is a steep hill.
Step 3 - Plow and Apply Abrasive as needed
The final step is to apply abrasive (a sand and salt mixture) if needed. Abrasive is not applied for every storm. It is only applied if increased traction is needed. Towards the end of the storm event staff will observe the forecast and determine further actions.
Every reasonable step is taken to prevent the over-use of brine, salt, and abrasives while still maintaining safe travel for vehicles.
City Sidewalk Snow Removal
The City's mission is to minimize the severity of the storm through a comprehensive plan to remove the snow and ice from our roadways, sidewalks, parking lots and public facilities. The Public Works Department will continue to put an emphasis on clearing priority sidewalks or sidewalks in areas of high pedestrian traffic, around public property, and on bridges or overpasses.
A map has been created to depict these areas (select image to view full size or [1.7MB] View PDF of Sidewalk Snow Removal).