Here in southeastern Virginia, we don’t have to worry about snow storms all that often so it only makes sense that our resources for snow removal are limited. We do, however, have detailed and practiced plans that help us jump to action whenever the forecast calls for snow. We have around 40 vehicles with plows and salt spreaders and we maintain a supply of 3,000 tons of salt and 30,000 gallons of brine solution. During a snow storm, crews work 12-hour shifts, starting just before the onset of the storm, and often lasting well after the storm. Our road treatment plan is multi-pronged so here are a few details on the process.
How We Treat Roadways
Pre-Treatment – When conditions are right, a brine solution (salt water) is spread on roadways to help melt ice and snow when it makes contact with the road. Pre-treatment with brine is not ideal for storms that start as rain because the rain washes the solution away before it can do anything. So pre-treatment is done sparingly and is largely focused on bridges and overpasses, which tend to freeze first.
Salt Spreading – Salt is used on slick roadways throughout the City to help melt ice and snow. In years past, we used to use a combination of salt and sand, with sand acting as traction while the salt helped melt. It’s been shown, however, that the sand does not do much of anything for traction when used like that and with the amount of mess it makes, it’s not worth it. So if you’re looking for sand on the roads to determine whether or not a particular road has been treated, you won’t find any.
Plowing – Plowing in the City of Chesapeake will not begin until at least two inches of snow has accumulated. The plows are not as effective on less snow and they’re more likely to get damaged or to damage the roadway. Keep in mind that you may see trucks with their plows up at various times before/during/after the storm. This is likely because there is not enough snow to be plowing yet so instead, the truck is spreading salt out the back. It could also be that the truck is headed back to the garage due to a mechanical issue, which is not uncommon with plows.
Where We Plow
We do not plow neighborhood streets. Because of how infrequently we see big snow storms, our resources and our operator experience is limited. Residential streets bring with them many challenges such as narrow street width, parked cars, and limited turning space. We are quite different from those northern cities that get consistent practice with snow removal throughout the year. We are also not a small City, with around 2400 lanes miles of paved streets, so our resources are truly stretched thing.
What we do plow are our main roadways.
We start with “emergency routes” which are the major north/south, east/west thoroughfares (Battlefield Blvd, Military Hwy, Rt 17, Mt. Pleasant Rd). As we see progress with clearing those roads, we move on to “primary routes”, which are those important to business (Bainbridge Blvd, Cavalier Blvd). Then we move on to “secondary and connector routes”. We often don’t even get to the lower tiers of roadways before mother nature helps us out with warmer temperatures that melt the roadways for us.
If you are on the roads before, during, or after the storm and you come upon a plow or salt spreader truck, please give it plenty of space. Following too closely could mean salt or other debris hitting your car. Trying to pass a plow is a bad idea because the road in front of it is in worse condition than behind it. Plows also have limited visibility on a good day, not to mention when the weather and road conditions are bad. Just go slow and give them space.