City Manager's Blog

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Dec 10


Posted on December 10, 2018 at 3:47 PM by Melinda Mayo


What else could I possibly post about today – but snow?

As I sit here contemplating the ability of actually getting out of my driveway and into work, with no less than 14 inches of fresh white snow on the ground, there was really little choice of my topic for this week’s post.

Hundreds of men and women, and dozens of pieces of equipment are used each time it snows in an effort to keep people safe and to help get travel on city streets back to normal as quickly as possible.  Planning and preparation for snow begins well before any specific weather event.  Equipment is checked out to be certain it is operational, supplies and materials are ordered and stockpiled, and information is provided to residents and businesses. 


The days leading up to a snow event involve a great deal of coordination and preparation.  As equipment is readied, shifts are adjusted to safely accommodate 24-hour work schedules.  Emergency management personnel begin orchestrating the response with meetings and conference calls, checklists, and readiness reports.  Weather forecasts are checked and re-checked – the City interacts directly with the National Weather Service and also maintains a subscription with a private forecasting firm to enable the most accurate forecasts.  Just prior to an event, crews begin pre-treating road surfaces, personnel begin placing anti-icing agents on sidewalks and, if strong winds are anticipated, begin to remove items that could be blown around.  Accounting personnel begin tracking expenditures on overtime, materials, etc. to help manage costs and prepare us to request state or federal reimbursements after the storm.  Department of Technology personnel ensure phones and radios are fully functional and that the Citizen Call Center used by residents to check on street conditions is ready.  E-911 Dispatchers begin making plans for overnight accommodations in downtown to ensure shifts remain fully staffed regardless of weather conditions.  Generators located at many critical facilities are topped off to be ready should power be lost.


On the day of a weather event, the plows begin running on the streets as soon as there is enough snow to be plowed, usually 4 inches or more.  We start on our arterial streets—streets like Memorial, Jefferson, and Brandon—which generally connect to streets maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, who are busy getting the Interstates and other State-maintained roads clear. Valley Metro routes also are a priority when plowing begins.  A number of folks begin to clear sidewalks and prepare buildings for opening.  During this entire time, Emergency Management personnel and City Administration are coordinating department activities and the activities of VDOT, area schools, utility providers, and other units of government, and communications folks are sharing information with residents.  Once the arterial streets are passable, crews turn their attention to our neighborhood streets.  Somewhere in the midst of all of this, City Administration determines when best to open city facilities, when and how transit may operate and how best to conduct solid waste collection.


It is an amazing thing to watch your city crews respond to an event such as the one we just experienced.  They work hard, long, and late hours.  They take their job very seriously and want nothing more than to get everything ready for you and me to safely get to work, school, or our other appointments – to get things back to normal!  With a snow as significant as this one, it will take a bit of time.  Though things may move slower than you might prefer, be certain there are hundreds of dedicated people doing all they can to move things along as safely and quickly as they possibly can – and for them and their effort I am very thankful!

--Bob Cowell


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