Arlington Winters Have Changed, County Preparations for Snow Haven’t

Published on December 08, 2022

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This will sound familiar. Area meteorologists have predicted a somewhat below average total for seasonal snow accumulation in the region. That would be the sixth time in the past seven winters. Did we mention the historical chance for a white Christmas is at 7%?

Regardless, Arlington County continues with almost year-round planning and training for the possibility of a sudden bad blast of winter. County crews are ready once again to hit the roads with a fleet of almost 50 trucks as well as contractors on call to make them safer before typical traffic resumes.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

Staying off the roads is the best action for anyone without an essential reason to venture out during and right after a snowstorm. There are easy ways to monitor weather conditions in Arlington and the County’s response to severe snow events.  

When activated, the County’s online, near real-time storm map offers a simple but handy display of response progress, with each pass along a roadway represented by a line that gets heavier with each return. As response efforts expand, more roads on the map will show activity from main priority roadways into neighborhood streets.

The map never declares a street officially "cleared" or "passable" for overall safety. Users see a basic predictive tracker of progress and should use other sources such as local news and social media to get a better sense of area conditions.

Note: Trucks only plow Arlington streets when there’s an accumulation of 2 inches or more. Plowing anything less would damage road surfaces and equipment.

If a winter event requires bringing in contractor support, those vehicles will carry the same wireless tracking units used on County trucks to feed the storm response map.

The County’s more than 200 live-streaming traffic cameras are incorporated into the map, providing bird’s-eye views of roads across Arlington.

The online Snow Issues Form is linked from the map and activated once snow has stopped to let users report trouble spots on streets, sidewalks and trails. Users can also upload photos to help dispatchers and crews.

The Virginia Department of Transportation services parts of some key Arlington roadways, including Glebe Road, Washington Boulevard and Langston Boulevard. Those do not appear on the Arlington snow map but are on the state’s plowing map.

Before, During and After the Storm

Arlington snow operations involve multiple departments as well as external partners, making for a force of several hundred people working in shifts to maintain core services. A winter weather alert for snow, ice or freezing rain sets crews in motion according to an established set of pretreatment and removal phases.

The County is responsible for clearing:

  • 1,059 miles of roads
  • 350 bus shelters and stops
  • 35 miles of sidewalks in shared public areas
  • 21 bridges and overpasses
  • 10 miles of trails (Department of Parks and Recreation)
  • 7.4 miles of protected bike lanes.

The County will often use its recently upgraded brine pretreatment system and possibly salt, depending on the timing of an incoming storm. Initial rains can make things complicated. Arlington follows Virginia’s Salt Management Strategy to minimize the effects of brine and salt on the region’s watershed. Real-time loading data and improved calibration technology make deployment of brine and salt more efficient and effective.

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 key role in recovery after a winter storm. 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.

Here are other ways to help:

  • Coordinate with neighbors to park cars on one side of the street, where feasible, or avoid on-street parking on narrow roads so plow operators can efficiently clear a wider span of roadway.
  • Don’t park “head in” on cul-de-sacs, allowing plows more room to maneuver.
  • Clear sidewalks, fire hydrants and storm drains, tossing snow toward buildings and not the street. However, wait for plows to come before clearing snow from the front of driveways, to minimize the amount pushed back by plows.
  • Stay home or use mass transit to reduce the number of potentially stranded vehicles.
  • Apply only the recommended minimum of chemical deicers on sidewalks and driveways.
  • Stay connected through the County’s Snow and Ice page and DES’ social media platforms for updates on snow phases, transportation, trash collection and other important notifications. Follow @ArlingtonDES on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for Arlington Alert to receive updates on hazardous winter weather conditions.

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