Preparing for Winter in Unusual Times

Published on December 14, 2020

Snow plow operating on street

With less than an inch of snow all last winter, Arlington residents are excused for thinking 2020 would unfold with few interruptions.

Now, with online classes and work from home all too familiar, forecasters say we're in for another below average season -- maybe 10 inches total. Regardless of what an official snow day would look like, Arlington will be prepared to fight winter's worst just like in years past: as a matter of public safety and basic access.

Follow Storm Response from Home


If and when heavy accumulations appear, the County's response will be one more event to view from any online screen. The live Arlington storm map will be deployed in near real-time, showing plow progress across the County based on data sent directly from trucks on the road.

Each pass along a thoroughfare will be represented by a line that becomes heavier with each return. As the County response expands, more roads will show activity from main arterials into neighborhoods.

It's important to note that the map will never declare a street officially "cleared" or "passable." Users will see a basic predictive tracker of the County's storm response as crews deploy and make progress. The County's live-streaming traffic cameras are also incorporated in the map for several bird's-eye views.

Motorists should always use extreme caution in deciding whether to travel during and after a storm.

Residents reporting specific concerns through the County's online Snow Issues Form will also be able to upload a photo of trouble spots, helping dispatchers and crews better identify and locate the issue.

Some Arlington Roadways Are Maintained by the State


The storm response map will not show response efforts on roadways maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, including Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway. See the state roads maintained by VDOT in Arlington.

More Tools for Pretreatment, Tighter Turns


In addition to upgrading its entire brine pretreatment mixing, storage (replacement of four 5000-gallon tanks) and loading systems, the County has added two new V-plows and two new extendable plows for better maneuverability on narrow streets, cul-de-sacs and dead ends.

Arlington continues to partner with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to ensure the safest possible use of road salt while protecting the region's watershed.

Before, During and After the Storm


Arlington snow operations always involve multiple departments plus external partners, making for a response force of several hundred people working around the clock in shifts to keep core infrastructure and services running. This season, special health precautions, including no large in-person briefings, have been established to prevent spread of COVID-19 among crews.

As always, a winter weather alert of snow, ice or freezing rain sets crews in motion according to an established set of pretreatment and removal phases.

The County's 2020-2021 snow-fighting inventory includes 46 trucks each equipped with a salt spreader and plow blade. Additional contractor equipment can be deployed based on the severity of the storm.

In addition to roadways, the County clears nearly 4 miles of protected bike lanes and 10 miles of multi-use trails. Arlington is committed to a range of year-round transportation options and treats high-volume trails with the same priority and response time as primary arterial streets. Trail and lane conditions are reported frequently by BikeArlington on social media.

How You Can Help


Arlington residents play a vital role in recovery when significant winter weather hits. The County's Snow Removal Ordinance requires all property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after the end of the storm for snowfalls of less than 6 inches, or 36 hours for those greater than 6 inches.

Other ways to assist when bad winter weather sets in, taking into account basic health protocols including masks and social distancing when necessary:

  • Coordinate with neighbors to park cars on one side of the street, where feasible, or avoid on-street parking so snowplow operators can efficiently clear a wider span of roadway

  • Don't park "head in" on cul-de-sacs so plows have more room to maneuver

  • Clear sidewalks, fire hydrants and storm drains, tossing snow toward buildings, not the street, BUT

  • Wait for plows to come by before clearing snow from the front of driveways, to minimize the amount pushed back by plows

  • Stay home and out of the car or use mass transit only to reduce the number of potentially stranded vehicles

  • Apply only the recommended minimal amount of chemical de-icers on sidewalks and driveways to attain safe footing

  • Stay connected through the County's Snow and Ice Central page and DES social media platforms for updates on snow phases, transportation, trash and other important notifications. Follow @ArlingtonDES  on Twitter and Facebook.

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