Snow & Ice Removal FAQs

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Why does it take so long to plow the streets? 

The city is responsible for many streets and public areas. City crews work before, during, and after a snow storm. Crews work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts, using all available equipment and personnel. Clearing snow is difficult work that requires crews to adapt to constantly changing conditions. Heavy snow, or even a small amount of ice can cause damage to plows that must be inspected and repaired. Please remember that even is your street has not yet been cleared, city crews have been working as hard as possible. Your patience in greatly appreciated.

I have 24 hours to clear the sidewalk.  How do I know when the storm is officially over? 

After each significant snow, the City Manager's office will broadcast an official stop of the snow to alert residents and businesses of the expectation to shovel sidewalks.  The media will be alerted, and the City’s website will be updated.

What are the consequences of not clearing my sidewalk? 

Residents and businesses who do not clear their sidewalks will first be issued a warning, but if not taken care of promptly, the city will hire a private crew to remove the snow and then bill the property owners for the expense.

I am elderly or physically unable to shovel snow from my sidewalk. What can I do? 

The City of Charlottesville may be able to direct you to organizations which have agreed to provide assistance with snow removal.  Please contact the City Manager's Office for more information, 434-970-3101.

A street near mine was just plowed. Does that mean my street will be next? 

The city plows and treats streets in priority order. If the street that was just plowed is at the same priority as yours, it is likely that your street will be plowed soon. Factors such as crew shift changes, equipment maintenance, and refueling may mean that there will be a delay before crews reach your street. If the first street was a higher priority (e.g. a primary route), the crews may move to another street of the same priority level.

How does the City know which streets have been plowed?

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology is used on all snow trucks. AVL provides the ability to know how much of a snow route has been completed, and also ensures the safety of our drivers and citizens through speed tracking.

Snowy recycling cart

My trash and recycling wasn’t picked up because of the snow. When can I expect it to be collected?

Conditions sometimes make it unsafe for refuse collection trucks to operate.  When this is the case, the media will be alerted and the City’s website will be updated.  Unless road conditions are expected to continue to be unsafe, refuse will be collected the following day.  All other scheduled collection days for the remainder of the week will be deferred one day. 

How many vehicles does the city have working during a snow operation? 

The Public Service Division operates 24 vehicles for de-icing, anti-icing, and plowing city streets during a snow even. These units are used to work 10 main routes, 1 bridge route, and 4 auxiliary routes.

How many employees typically work a storm? What do they do? 

During a snow storm, Public Works crews working to clear streets are divided into two twelve hour shifts to provide 24/7 response. Typically, there are 40 employees per shift actively plowing streets.

The Parks and Recreation Department mobilizations additional people for snow/ice response related to the Downtown Mall and side streets between Market and Water, as well and sidewalks that adjoin public property.

Other departments and work groups have significant roles during snow storms.  Read about our Charlottesville Snow/Ice Response Team.

What chemicals are used to melt snow? 

In recent years, the City’s primary tool to pre-treat roads and melt ice has been salt brine, a combination of common rock salt and water.  In some instances, we also utilize untreated rock salt, sand or liquid de-icing agents which are non-corrosive and work at lower temperatures.

Are the chemicals used corrosive or harmful to the environment? 

Common salt is recognized as the top material with regards to performance and cost, and it is more widely used across the world than any other chemical.  Salt is not as harmful to the environment as many other chemicals, but it is corrosive. Mixing salt and water to create salt brine minimizes the environmental impact of salt by 80%.  

Other liquid de-icing agents used at low temperatures are biodegradable products with reduced corrosive qualities