Prepare for Winter Weather in Arlington

Published on December 13, 2023

snowy street in arlington

Meteorologists have forecast above average snowfall for the metropolitan area this winter after less than a half inch of snow fell in the region last time around. There is also the possibility of between 1-3 “winter storm” level events, including an above average chance for a blizzard-level storm.

Arlington County is prepared for snow no matter what the forecast predicts.

Staff from the Department of Environmental Services’ (DES) Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau have conducted driver trainings since early fall to ensure our fleet of almost 50 trucks can clear roads, allowing vehicles to travel safely and maintaining essential County operations.

Here are some tools and tips for Arlington residents to prepare for snow and ice this winter.

Track the Storm Response While Safe at Home

Staying off the roads is the best action for anyone without a crucial 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 determine conditions in their neighborhood.

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 bus 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.

Our four new brine tanks at the 26th Street North and Old Dominion Drive site, which were installed over the summer, improve our snow pre-treatment response times by providing a convenient fill station on the north side of the County. This allows us to be more efficient, treat more roads faster, and provides redundancy in our snow operations.

The County will often use its 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, storm drains and catch basins, 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.
  • Protect our watersheds and fish habitats by applying only the recommended minimum of winter salt or chemical deicers on sidewalks and driveways. Shoveling snow before it turns to ice helps reduce the amount of salt or chemicals you need to spread. Remember to sweep excess product to reuse later and keep it out of our rivers and streams.

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