Many neighborhoods waiting for a plow


The midday melting is helping the plows, but some local streets like this one in Silver Spring have slick spots where cars have packed snow. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

The warmer hours of midday Friday are a great time to shovel sidewalks and driveways, clearing up that overnight mess of ice and snow that seemed like a cruel trick played on those who had been out cleaning up after the first wave struck on Thursday morning.

Fashion advice: Wear a light jacket and sunglasses. The Capital Weather Gang will explain why, with its update on daytime melting and night time freezing.

Maryland

My Silver Spring neighbors, who have been energetic about clearing their sidewalks and cars, are wondering if the county plow will make a return visit to clear the ice and snow that built up overnight and made driving tricky. Montgomery County residents can use this link to see the county snow map. It shows the status of plowing and has a place to report problems.

Sunshine and elevated temperature are softening the snow and making it “a pretty good day for plowing,” Montgomery County spokesman Patrick Lacefield told Post reporter Bill Turque. The county is responsible for 220 snow routes. On Friday night, crews will go into the central business districts in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton with trucks to haul away snow.

Snow clearing responsibility on Maryland is complicated. The Maryland State Highway Administration takes care of the numbered roads. County governments and municipalities handle everything else. This link goes to a pdf page showing phone numbers for the local highway departments in Maryland. Follow this link for a directory of the state highway shops.

State Highway Administration spokesman Chuck Gischlar said its roads should be clear by the end of the work day, Turque reported. Crews are focused on “fine-tuning”, Gischlar said, especially on the highway ramps. “Yesterday we wanted to make it passable,” Gischlar said. “Today we went through, and we’re currently pushing back on the shoulders, making sure the ramps are shoulder to shoulder.” Turque said the highway department’s main concern at midday is standing water from the melting. Gischlar encouraged motorists to report it, using the form on this Web page.

Virginia

Virginia is a bit less complicated. The Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for the cleanup in much of Northern Virginia.

All major interstates and roads have been cleared, but the shoulders and ramps are still narrow because of snow, the Virginia Department of Transportation told Post reporter Antonio Olivo.

Additionally, many of the roughly 600 subdivisions in the northern part of the state have yet to be cleared, according to VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris.

“We’re hoping we make really significant progress today,” Morris said, adding that as many as 4,000 snow plows were dispatched Thursday night and Friday morning. “It’s not curb-to-curb 100 percent perfect yet, but certainly people can get around the major roads.”

Morris said residents inside subdivisions have been calling the department to complain, a frustration compounded by phone problems inside the state agency that has led to several of those calls being disconnected.

The VDOT strategy for neighborhood cleanups goes like this: Crews plow streets and sand hills, curves and intersections to provide traction. Roads will have an 8-to-10-foot path, but will not be cleared curb-to-curb and not to bare pavement. Residents should continue to park in driveways or on the odd-numbered side of the street so plows can make additional passes. When clearing driveways, leave the last few feet as they are, because the plow will push some snow back.

People wanting to know about the status of cleanup efforts in their neighborhood can check online at www.vdotplows.org, she said.

“We’re in every subdivision,” a task that amounts to 8,000 miles of road in Northern Virginia,” Morris said. “If you haven’t seen a plow by 6 p.m. tonight, go ahead and call us.”

Olivo also reported that some Fairfax County residents were frustrated about the progress of the road clearing. They see some roads plowed more than once, while others remained untouched. Other homeowners expressed grief after snow plows drove through their streets and left a bank of snow in front of freshly dug out driveways, said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the county’s board of supervisors.

“I know some people are frustrated about when they are going to get into neighborhood streets, but I would say that by the end of the day people should be seeing plows and there should be an improvement,” Bulova told Olivo.

VDOT has done “a good job under the circumstances,” Bulova said. “They would have made a lot more progress on the secondary streets if it had not snowed again [Thursday night.]”

Arlington County

Post staffer Patricia Sullivan reported that county road crews have completed plowing of primary, secondary and 85 percent of residential streets. They now are finishing the remaining streets and responding to residents’ requests. Two more 12-hour shifts are scheduled for cleanup operations and in case of a snowfall Friday night. Residents who have requests can call the county at 703-0228-6485 or make a request through the county Web page.

The District

Post reporter Aaron C. Davis had this report on the District’s cleanup.

Plowing operations in D.C. are largely over, according to D.C. Department of Public Works spokeswoman Linda Grant.

City trucks and contractors have been spreading salt, hoping that the combination of salt and rising temperatures will turn most streets to slush and running water. Decisions to plow, Grant said, such as on streets with snow drifts that might not melt quickly, will be made on a case-by-case basis. The city is also relying on residents’ calls to its 311 system to identify unplowed residential streets.

“Whether plowing or salting, we’ve been over virtually every street,” Grant said, “but we always know there is going to be some street … that is missed, so we ask residents to call 311 to report that you need attention to your street.”

The lack of plowing, however, should not suggest the city is standing down, Grant said. The salting operation is widespread and was deemed the most logical as temperatures rise. Grant said salting will help prevent any further damage to plows or property. District plow drivers also remain on 12-hour shifts and will keep that schedule through Friday night’s expected snowfall.

In general, the District first plows its commercial and snow emergency routes. All of those were cleared by the time the city’s snow emergency was lifted at 6:30 p.m. The District on Thursday also focused on 82 residential routes deemed too hilly for motorists to safely navigate without plowing. On Thursday evening, Davis reported, the District’s plowing operation began to focus on clearing smaller, residential streets. But not all of the city’s plows can navigate narrow streets, it relies on a smaller fleet of Ford 550s and contractors to plow many of them.

Alleys and most bike lanes will not be plowed by the city.

To find out when – or if – a D.C. street was plowed, type the address into the District’s snow plow tracker.

We’ll have further updates on the cleanup here as they become available.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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