Ready for Winter Weather
Ready for Winter Weather
December 10, 2020
Overview of Snow Fighting Operations in Advance of Winter
The City of Cedar Rapids Public Works Department begins making preparations early every year in advance of winter weather. This includes readying equipment, material, and staff.
Crews evaluate each snow event to determine the most effective material and equipment, considering multiple factors such as duration of storm, anticipated accumulations, type of precipitation, current and forecasted temperatures, wind speed/direction, surface temperatures of the road, and existing snow coverage. Below is a brief overview of the equipment and material used every year to plow and treat approximately 1,400 lane miles.
The City’s swap loader trucks are specially equipped to move from summertime construction activity to snow fighting operations within a matter of hours. The truck’s box can be rolled off and swapped out quickly, allowing staff to remove the box used for hauling construction material and replace it with a spreader used for hauling and dispensing salt, sand, or brine. This quick switch allows crews to seamlessly transfer back and forth between construction and snow fighting operations with fewer trucks – which is especially beneficial during fall or spring months when weather changes quickly or reverts back to previous temperatures.
The trucks are also equipped with saddle tanks, which are attached to the side of the trucks and apply a thin layer of brine directly to the salt and sand mix as the trucks dispense material. The result is the material is wet before it hits the pavement, making it instantly effective and reducing the “scattering” effect by 30 percent. Scattering occurs when dry salt is applied to the pavement and then scatters or bounces along the curb line, often bouncing ineffectively off the roadway. Wet material is also much more effective in melting than dry material.
Snow plow blades are stored on site at the City Services Center and can quickly be attached to the front of trucks for snow removal operations. In total, the City has approximately 90 pieces of snow removal equipment at its disposal in the event of significant snowfall.
The City stockpiles material nearly a year in advance, and generally has on hand approximately 9,000 tons of salt/sand and 10,000 gallons of brine, and can make and blend brine with other products as needed based on winter conditions. The brining and mixing station is also housed on site at the City Services Center.
The City has three locations to stockpile material, including a salt dome at the City Services Center that holds 4,500 tons of salt.
The City has never run out of material during a winter season, and has contracts lined up to replenish material if needed. In the past, the City has also been able to assist smaller jurisdictions who needed to purchase material and replenish their own stockpiles over difficult winters.
Three divisions in the Public Works Department as well as forestry crews in the Parks and Recreation Department aid in snow removal operations, and transition to around-the-clock shifts between November and April every year to provide 24/7 service during snow events.
Snow Removal Prioritization
After a snowfall, it may take up to 12 hours for crews to reach every street in the city. During heavy or slow-moving storms, crews may need to make multiple passes on the same route before they can move on to the next area of prioritization.
The following is how the City prioritizes snow removal efforts:
- Main arterial streets: Highest traffic volumes and posted Emergency Snow Routes
- Collector streets: Connect major sections of the city
- Residential streets: Neighborhoods and side streets
During particularly icy conditions, crews prioritize placing material in areas most susceptible to hazardous conditions, such as hills, bridges, and intersections.
Snow Emergency Declarations & Parking Restrictions
When a snow emergency is declared, on-street parking is restricted on Emergency Snow Routes to make it easier for crews to clear the road curb-to-curb. Vehicles in violation during a snow emergency may be ticketed and/or towed.
Residents are also asked to voluntarily remove cars parked in residential streets to help plow operators remove snow and break up ice pack. Residents are asked to voluntarily follow the odd/even parking rule (park on the odd-address side of the street on odd calendar days/Park on the even-address side of the street on even calendar days).
Odd/Even rule does not apply to any street where the alternate side parking would conflict with permanently posted parking restrictions. Vehicles that have been parked on the street for more than 48 hours may be ticketed and towed. Residents can report these vehicles by calling the Cedar Rapids Police non-emergency number: 319-286-5491.
Sign up for text alerts and read more at www.cityofcr.com/snow.