Although heavy snowstorms are rare in Hampton Roads, the Department of Public Works is prepared to treat and clear roads when snowfall or freezing rain occurs. The traditional method is to spread salt and sand on top of snow or ice to add traction and melt the frozen material before beginning to plow when accumulations reach 2 inches. In some cases, roadways and bridges can be pre-treated with a salt brine solution to delay freezing of the precipitation. Special attention is given to overpasses, bridges and intersections.
To maintain the City's transportation network, roads are cleared in the following order: emergency routes, primary routes, secondary routes and connector routes. View the Snow Response Strategy Flowchart (JPG). Public Works does not clear or treat residential side streets during storms.
The Public Works Snow Response Plan details the Department's strategy. You can also view a summarized version of the plan in this presentation.
Safety on the Roads
When sharing the road with snow plows or sand spreaders, it's important to use extreme caution. They are large machines being used in conditions that are dangerous even for small cars. If at all possible, avoid being on the roads during snow storms. If you must travel, consider the following:
- Give plows plenty of space. Stay at least 4 car lengths behind them. This is for your personal safety and the safety of your vehicle, as some plows may be spreading sand which can damage your car.
- Do not assume the driver sees you. His or her field of vision is limited.
- Avoid passing a snow plow. The plow may cross over the center line and the road in front of the plow is usually in much worse condition.
- Plows might also create a snow cloud or whiteout condition which you should not drive through.
- Do not cut in front of a plow too closely. The plow extends well beyond the front of the truck and the truck cannot stop quickly.
It's important to prepare yourself and your family before snow storms hit. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about how you can stay safe.
Visit the City's Winter Weather preparation guide for information on how to prepare for snow storm, ice, and extreme cold.