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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

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Jan 20

Snow in the Star City

Posted on January 20, 2022 at 4:13 PM by Lauren Waldron

In addition to a share of good fortune and favorable temperatures, ever wonder what it takes to clear streets following a snow such as what the City accumulated over the past weekend?  Last weekend, the City received about eight inches of snow and a good amount of sleet–all total the moisture equivalent of about 12 inches of snow.  Even though crews were busy plowing all day Sunday and Monday, work begins well before the plows begin running.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Well before any forecast for winter weather, plans are developed for clearing streets and bridges, equipment is readied and supplies are secured.  These efforts involve personnel in Transportation, Fleet, Purchasing, Accounting, Public Works, and many others.  The plans are refined year after year, learning from the experience of the previous year.

When Snow is Forecasted 

A couple of days before any forecasted arrival of winter weather, crews begin preparing and repairing equipment, checking various forecast models, and reviewing plans.  With this most recent storm, the work began Thursday and continued into Friday when crews started pre-treating streets with salt brine to make snow removal more efficient.  Preparations include: salting sidewalks at municipal facilities, securing food and hotel rooms for personnel unable to make it home between shifts, and briefing the community on the latest forecasts and plans.

As the Snow Arrives

As the snow arrives, crews begin working major streets and transit routes.  Initially this involves additional spreading of salt and chemicals, and as snow amounts increase, turns to plowing.  Around 100 staff members are involved in operating the equipment used to move snow, working 12-hour shifts on a 24-hour schedule, using more than 50 pieces of equipment.  These individuals are supported by fleet personnel, helping make certain equipment continues to remain operational, custodians keeping facilities clean, and communications staff keeping the community aware of current conditions.  Emergency dispatchers, police personnel, and Fire-EMS personnel also adjust their work schedules and ensure equipment is snow worthy–for example placing chains on ambulances.  Throughout the event directors, emergency management personnel, and others are coordinating the various activities and the City Manager’s Office keeps the Mayor and City Council informed of current activities and conditions.  Our Communications Team also manages all messaging internally to staff as well as externally to the community.

Returning to Normal

The City has a goal of clearing 90% of all major streets within 24 hours of the end of falling snow.  With this storm that occurred around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night.  By mid-day on Monday, the City’s first goal was met.  Once this is accomplished, the City’s second goal is to have 90% of all residential streets clear of snow, following which crews turn their attention to sidewalks at Municipal facilities and greenways as well as trucking snow out of downtown.  

Only through the dedication of these folks, who work consistently for as long as it takes, can transit service, solid waste collection, school attendance, and more return to normal and we can all get back to work.

-- Bob Cowell

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