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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

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Feb 01

Snow

Posted on February 1, 2021 at 2:33 PM by Melinda Mayo

For most, waking up to a few inches of snow is welcomed with hiking boots, skis, cameras, sleds, mugs of hot coffee, or an extra log in the fireplace.   But for a number of City employees, snow means long days and nights working to make our streets and sidewalks safe for travel.

Planning for Winter Weather

Planning for winter weather doesn’t happen upon the forecast for snow.  Rather, planning occurs months prior to any chance of inclement weather.  Snowplow operators familiarize themselves with their routes, equipment is made ready, and supplies such as chemicals and salt are procured and stockpiled.  

Getting Ready for Winter Weather

Once a forecast indicates the chance for inclement weather, City administration and Emergency Management personnel begin meeting with various departments and divisions, including Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Stormwater, Facilities, and Fleet.  Once again, plans are reviewed and adapted to the forecasted conditions, equipment is checked over one additional time, and City personnel are alerted to changes in schedules.

Prior to any inclement weather actually arriving, crews begin dispersing chemicals and salt in known trouble spots along primary streets and on bridges.  The same is done around City facilities such as the Municipal Building and at Library branches.  At this time, City administration briefs the Mayor and City Council on anticipated conditions and the planned response.  If the forecast is for a significant event, City crews begin operating on 12-hour shifts.

Dealing With Winter Weather

Once the event arrives, crews begin targeting trouble spots where ice has begun to accumulate, most often identified by Fire or Police personnel who are working around the City.  Updates are provided to the general public and local media when appropriate.  Plowing of snow begins when depths make it necessary and possible.  Crews focus on the most heavily traveled City streets and those major corridors leading to them.  Access to and from hospitals and transit routes are given the highest priorities.  Crews move to residential streets once these primary and collector streets are in good condition.  Depending upon weather conditions, this can take some time, as there are hundreds of miles of streets crews must plow.

While crews work on the streets, others are tending to City facilities, clearing sidewalks and greenways, and making certain Fire stations are not hindered in their ability to respond due to the weather.  City administration is updated by department managers and emergency management personnel on a regular basis and, in turn, the Mayor and Council are updated.  Notices of trouble spots and updates of conditions are provided to the media and posted on the City’s social media accounts to help keep the general public keep up to date.  

Preparing for the Next Event

All of this continues until conditions return to normal, at which time crews return to normal schedules, debriefings are conducted, equipment is repaired, and supplies are replenished as we await the next storm.  

So next time you are enjoying that coffee by the fireplace or sledding down the hill at the park, take a few moments to appreciate the hard work the men and women of the City workforce are doing so that you can safely travel to work or school, or run errands.  

-- Bob Cowell


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