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hominid's avatar

How does snow removal work?

Asked by hominid (7347points) February 10th, 2015

I’m hoping there is someone here who has some real understanding of how towns manage snow removal. I’m assuming they don’t just hire a bunch of people with plows and have them race around trying to clear the streets. There must be assigned roads, and even assigned routes, right?

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6 Answers

Strauss's avatar

Most municipalities that require snow removal have a prioritized hierarchy of roadways. There might be four levels of priority. Priority One routes would be major arterials and roads that provide access to emergency services (police/fire stations, hospitals, etc). Priority two routes would be major and minor arterials, major collector streets and roads that allow access to schools, business areas, grocery stores and service stations. Priority three and four routes might be other major snow routes.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We get a lot of snow here. State roads are cleaned by State plows. Town roads are plowed by the Town. Private properties (shopping malls, personal driveways, etc.) are cleaned by private contractors. The nice thing is that all agencies cooperate. For example at some point the snow might be too high to just push out of the way so front-end loaders are used to make huge piles. The shopping mall might allow the Town to dump snow if the Town loaders push the pile for the contractor. It really is a cooperative effort. I have seen a State Truck will helping a Town truck that fell off the road. I’m sure the Town returned the favor over the years.
Major roads are cleared first, then side streets. Individuals clear out their own driveways or pay contractors. If someone has a big, tractor-mounted blower it is not unusual for them to clear out the road for the neighbors before the Town truck arrives.
I get up early and clear out the driveways of two of my neighbors.

hominid's avatar

When you say “routes”, are you referring to specific pre-planned routes that the plows must take? Let’s use school buses as an example. The routes are precisely-planned, and each bus driver must travel the assigned route. Does it work the same way with the plows?

I’m asking because I can’t figure something out. I’ve lived at my current house for 5 winters. Every single storm, the plows shove most of the snow on my side of the street. The walls of snow on the other side of the street is exactly half the height of my side of the street. The pattern of snow removal is clearly responsible. It goes like this:

- Wait for enough snow.
– A large plow (that takes up 75% of the street) will come by going the direction that pushes the snow on my side.
– A smaller plow will usually come by the other way, pushing the remaining 25% to the other side.
– Wait until there is more snow.
– Repeat.

Occasionally, they will double-plow. Both plows taking up the entire street, heading the same direction, but throwing the snow on my side.

Anyway, people will visit my house and wonder why one side of the street has no snow. I used to chalk it up to incompetence or intellectual laziness. But now I’m thinking that there must be a reason for it. I’ve contacted the town and they provided no information yet. They are looking into it.

Cupcake's avatar

Here’s a (local) governmental website outlining a bit of the process.

According to the website, plows are mobilized when there are 3 inches of snow. I’m assuming they get a text, page or robocall. They have an assigned ~6 mile route. I’m also assuming that if there is an additional accumulation of 3 inches of snow by the end of their route, they just loop around and re-plow their ~6 mile route.

I wonder if an independent contractor (with a smaller plow) was assigned the route that plows the opposite side of your street.

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JLeslie's avatar

When I was growing up the snow plows would clear the street I live in, which meant you could drive through the street, but it was all piled up on the sides right behind our cars. It was a massive effort to clear out the snow to be able to get the car out. I seem to remember that eventually they started alternating which side of the street they piled up high. I think people complained.

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