Snow and Ice Control
The City clears snow from 561 lane miles of roadways, 20 miles of publicly owned sidewalks, walkways and pathways, and 44 acres of municipal parking lots and publicly owned squares. Typically, alleys and non-municipal parking lots are not part of the City’s snow removal operations. View this map for snow removal priorities and download a copy of the winter weather flyer to learn about winter weather preparedness.
Current Snow and Ice Conditions
To check on the plowing priority and status of your street use the City’s SnowReport tracking system.
Once a snow emergency is declared by the City, additional information will be available via eNews alerts, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. For other emergencies related to snowstorms, call 311 or 703.746.4311 or contact us online. Please do not call this number to ask when your street will be plowed; see the information below regarding street-cleaning priorities.
Complaints about compliance with the sidewalk ordinance may also be made by calling 311 or 703.746.4311.
For frequently asked questions about the City's snow response, watch the video or visit the Snow Removal FAQs section of this page.
Snow Removal Priorities
City crews treat and plow primary roads (which include snow emergency routes) followed by secondary routes (including hills). After these priorities are addressed, crews will begin plowing intermediate and then residential streets.
Snow Emergency Routes
Any road where stopping and parking are not permitted during snow emergencies to maintain the flow of traffic for public safety purposes and to permit snow plows unimpeded access to the roadway. If your vehicle is parked on a snow emergency route during a winter weather event it should be moved immediately. Vehicles remaining after a snow emergency is declared may be towed at the owner’s expense. Snow emergency routes are posted with red and white signs, and listed in the City Code:
- King Street from Union Street to the western City limit
- Washington Street from City limit to City limit
- Duke Street from Washington Street to the western City limit
- U.S. Route No. 1 from City limit to City limit
- Braddock Road from North West Street to Beauregard Street
- Howard Street from Braddock Road to Jordan Street
- Jordan Street from Duke Street to Howard Street
- Eisenhower Avenue from Holland Lane to Van Dorn Street
Primary routes are our first priority for plowing and applying materials. Primary routes are the major streets and snow emergency routes that run throughout the City and near schools and hospitals. Plow trucks are first assigned to primary routes and then move quickly to secondary routes.
Secondary routes include local and neighborhood streets and most Metro and DASH bus routes. Plowing of these routes often occurs in tandem with or closely after the plowing of some primary routes. Depending on the severity of the storm, Metro and DASH may offer limited service or temporarily shut down.
Intermediate routes include any streets requiring special attention in snowy conditions (such as steep hills) that are not currently classified as primary or secondary routes. Intermediate routes also include a few smaller residential streets that are more commercial in use (i.e. service several businesses and/or industrial buildings). Plowing of these routes often occurs in tandem with or closely after the plowing of some secondary routes. Upon completion of intermediate routes, crews will move into residential routes.
Residential routes are primarily roads in neighborhoods and subdivisions adjacent to single-family residences, apartment buildings or smaller mixed use development. Crews will move into residential routes upon completion of other priorities.
Winter Weather Emergency System
The City’s winter weather emergency classifications are based on type and accumulation of precipitation with severity ranging from Level 1 (least severe) to Level 3 (most severe). The classifications are based on similar systems used widely in other jurisdictions. In Alexandria, the City Manager may declare a snow emergency and implement parking restrictions at any level.
When up to eight inches of snow or other winter weather conditions are in the forecast, City snow removal crews will work first to make snow-covered roads and sidewalks passable and ensure schools are accessible. Roadways and/or sidewalks may not be completely clear for 3 days.
When more than eight inches of snow, freezing rain with ice accumulation, or a combination of ice and snow are expected, roadways are considered hazardous and drivers are advised to limit their travel to emergency trips. City snow removal crews will work first to make snow covered roads passable for emergency and public utility vehicles, with the goal of bringing roadway conditions to Level 1. Crews will then return to make roads passable, plowing them clear within five (5) days following the storm; however, weather conditions may delay available resources and response times. Roadway conditions may require school delays or closures at discretion of schools.
Significant snow accumulations, ice, or blizzard conditions are expected; roads are closed to non-emergency vehicles. Roads will be made passable for emergency vehicles only, and snow removal operations will continue around the clock with the goal of bringing roadway conditions to Level 2.
Definitions for Snow Removal from City Streets
The City uses the following terms to define conditions of roads and throughways and the difference between the various conditions. Watch the video to learn the difference between snow-covered roads, passable roads, and cleared roads.
Streets are accessible to emergency vehicles only. All other vehicles should stay off the roads, as conditions are unsafe for driving.
Street is covered with snow.
Street may have been plowed (possibly one lane only), but may have only been treated. Snowy or icy spots remain and the street will require additional plowing. Drivers should use caution and limit driving to essential trips.
Snow has been pushed to the sides of the street, leaving one or two inches of snow, or cleared down to blacktop, with running water visible. Streets are also treated with salt. Drivers should continue to use caution and expect icy spots and/or snow.
Snow Removal on Sidewalks and Pathways
City Code Section 5-2-21 states that sidewalks, driveways, and entrances are the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, occupant, community association, or business for snow removal. Snow and ice must be cleared from all paved sidewalks abutting your property within 24-72 hours of the end of the snowfall, depending on the storm response level. During a storm, check alexandriava.gov for the storm response level. Failure to clear sidewalks may result in the City having the work done and charging the cost to the property owner, or fining the property owner $50. Time limits for cleaning snow are determined by the storm level:
- Level 1: 24 hours after snowfall stops
- Level 2: 48 hours after snowfall stops
- Level 3: 72 hours after snowfall stops
Owners and tenants who may be unavailable or unable to clear sidewalks themselves are responsible for making arrangements to have the work done for them in the event there is a storm.
To report a violation of the sidewalk ordinance, please call 311 or 703.746.4311.
City crews coordinate road clearing and sidewalk work depending on the severity of the storm. Accessible curb ramps, sidewalks and pathways that abut publicly-owned property are cleared by crews from City departments or Alexandria City Public Schools personnel.
The sidewalks are prioritized into three basic groups:
- First priority: School walking areas, accessible curb ramps and sidewalks near key transit stops such as Metro stations, and retail zones.
- Second priority: Walks expanding out from schools, parks, and municipal locations.
- Third priority: Trails, pathways internal to parks, and bike paths. (The Mount Vernon Trail is maintained by the National Park Service and is not plowed during snow events).
During less severe storms, priorities include schools and accessible curb ramps in heavily used pedestrian areas–particularly near major transit stops and retail zones along King Street (Commonwealth Avenue to Union Street) and Mount Vernon Avenue (East Glendale Avenue to Four Mile Road).
City Government and School Closings
City government closings and cancellations due to inclement weather are communicated in various forms including:
ALEXANDRIA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS (ACPS)
ACPS closing and cancellation announcements due to inclement weather are available at:
- ACPS website
- ACPS emergency eNews
- ACPS Hotline: 703.866.5300
Snow Shoveling Safety
The City of Alexandria urges residents to exercise caution while cleaning up after winter storms. Strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of illness and injury, especially heart attacks.
To help avoid illness or injury when clearing snow, follow these guidelines:
- Know yourself and your limitations. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, talk with your doctor before shoveling. If necessary, hire someone to remove the snow.
- Shovel early and often. Newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily packed or partially melted snow. It is also important to keep a path to your door in case you need to leave in an emergency.
- Push the snow instead of lifting it. Keep the shovel close to your body, and space your hands to increase leverage. If you must lift snow, lift properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs; do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Do not hold a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched.
- Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This action requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
- Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch out for ice patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes/boots that have slip-resistant soles.
- Snow is a powerful light reflector on sunny days. Wear sunglasses to prevent "snow blindness".
- Pace yourself. Shoveling snow is an aerobic activity, comparable to weightlifting. Take frequent breaks from the cold and the effort, and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration.
How You Can Help
Be prepared for winter weather by maintaining an adequate supply of shovels, salt or sand for your sidewalks and driveways. If you leave the City during winter, have a plan to ensure that your sidewalks will be cleared. This will prevent the City from charging you with fines, snow removal fees, or both.
In addition, please:
- Clear ice, snow and leaves from around fire hydrants and storm drains.
- Do not shovel snow from your property onto the sidewalk or street.
- Park your car off the street wherever possible.
- Immediately report potholes to the City online or at 311 or 703.746.4311.
- Check on neighbors needing assistance.
- Volunteer to be a Snow Buddy. Snow Buddy is a Volunteer Alexandria program which provides snow removal and sidewalk treatment for eligible Alexandrians. Volunteers are matched with low-income seniors or homebound or disabled residents who are physically unable to do it themselves, cannot afford to pay for this service, and/or do not have neighbors, family, or friends to assist them.
Did you know:
- The City has on standby more than 54 pieces of snow removal equipment and 120 crew members with more than 7,000 tons of salt available to keep roads clear.
- Snow and ice storms produce an average accumulation of 15 inches annually in Alexandria. That amount is generally spread over several events in a typical winter.
- During the winter months, City staff track potential storms 24 hours per day and on-call City crews and contractors are available to begin working in 12-hour shifts when winter weather is forecasted. If there is a snow emergency, essential employees, public safety, and emergency management staff work around the clock to ensure Alexandria's streets are safe for travel.
- You can help the City in its snow fighting efforts by removing snow from sidewalks, driveways, and entrances on your property in compliance with City Code.
Snow Removal FAQs
When will my street be plowed?
The City conducts plowing according to a list of priorities. City crews treat and plow primary roads (which include snow emergency routes) followed by secondary routes (including hills). After these priorities are addressed, crews will begin plowing residential streets. Please remain patient and stay home until the City can treat and plow your neighborhood.
Where should I park?
Whenever possible, please move all vehicles out of parking lanes before the storm begins. This keeps roads clear for plow equipment, reduces the chance of damage to your vehicle, and prevents your vehicle from getting snowed in. If you are parked on a posted snow emergency route, your vehicle may be ticketed or towed if it is not moved. For alternate parking locations, please see alexandriava.gov/Parking.
Why did I just see a truck drive by without its plow down?
If a plow is up on a City or City contractor truck, it may be because the truck is beginning or ending its shift, is returning for fuel or salt, is repositioning from one priority road to another, or is applying salt so that the snow will be soft enough to plow on the next pass.
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 (e.g. they are both residential), it is likely that your street will be plowed soon. Other factors – such as equipment maintenance, crew shifts, and refueling – may mean that there will still be a delay before crews reach your street. If the first street was a higher priority (e.g. it was a primary route and yours is a residential street, or it was a hilly street and yours is flat), the plow truck may move to another street at the same priority.
Why does it take so long to plow the streets?
The City is responsible for 561 lane miles of roadways, and that's in addition to 20 miles of sidewalks and pathways, plus public areas and facilities with significant areas of parking and assembly space. Before, during, and after a snow storm, City crews work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts, using all available equipment and personnel. Still, clearing snow is difficult work that requires crews to adapt to constantly changing conditions. Heavy snow, or even a small accumulation of ice, is very hard on plow equipment and can cause damage to plows that must be frequently inspected and repaired. Please remember that even if your street has not yet been cleared, City crews have been working as hard as possible to move through the City's road network.
Why do I often see trucks treating roadways on Friday afternoons, even when snow is not expected?
Our standard procedures for winter weather call for us to treat roadways, especially bridges and overpasses, with a brine solution on Fridays during regular hours when temperatures are expected to be near or below freezing. This helps us avoid ice on roadways and reduce the need for standby and overtime work on weekends (Alexandria Police and other public safety entities call T&ES to treat icy patches on weekends) -- we can treat streets in less time and with fewer people during regular work hours. In the end, we use less salt, spend less money, and have fewer problems with roadway ice than we did before we began this practice.
I used to live in Chicago/Buffalo/Pittsburgh, and they always did a better job responding to snow. Why can't we do better?
Alexandria typically receives 15 inches of snowfall per year, distributed across several storms during the winter months. The City's snow budget and plans are set based on this expectation, with some additional contingencies.
Why aren’t you using sand on my street?
The City very rarely uses sand. Typically, sand is used for traction on steep roadways, not to melt snow, and is used sparingly. Sand cannot be used in certain parts of the city (such as Old Town) because it drains to the older sewers and causes backups. Streets receive salt treatment to melt snow or prevent ice accumulation and are then plowed.
Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks?
Property owners and tenants are responsible for clearing the snow and ice from adjacent City sidewalks within 24-72 hours of the end of the snowfall, depending on the storm response level (Level 1 = 24 hours; Level 2 = 48 hours; Level 3 = 72 hours). During a storm, the alert at alexandriava.gov will list the storm response level. Accessible curb ramps, sidewalks and pathways that abut publicly-owned property are cleared by crews from City departments or Alexandria City Public Schools personnel.
Please also help your community by clearing storm drains and fire hydrants adjacent to your home, and do not shovel snow into streets or onto sidewalks. Lend a hand to neighbors and others who may need your assistance. Keeping storm drains clear will help prevent flooding once the snow melts. Clearing streets, sidewalks, and fire hydrants is an important part of maintaining safe mobility for everyone, but is especially vital for public safety crews who are responding to emergencies.
When will the City enforce the sidewalk ordinance?
Any property owner who fails to clear adjacent sidewalks within the allotted time (Level 1 = 24 hours; Level 2 = 48 hours; Level 3 = 72 hours) may be subject to a $50 fine, plus the cost of the City having the sidewalk cleared. During a storm, the alert at alexandriava.gov will list the storm response level. Complaints about compliance with the sidewalk ordinance may be made by calling 311 or 703.746.4311 or using SnowReport once the enforcement deadline has passed. City inspectors will begin responding to complaints once they have completed their initial duty of inspecting buildings and other locations for safety issues created by snow and ice falling from rooftops, loose signs, structural damage etc.
I just cleared my car, sidewalk, and driveway, and then City crews plowed my street and snowed me in again. Why can't snow be plowed towards the center or median of the street?
Most residential streets have only one or two travel lanes, so there is not enough room to plow snow to the middle of the street. In larger storms, it may be impossible to avoid pushing snow onto the sidewalk or your driveway from the street. Please be prepared to clear driveways and sidewalks more than one time to fully clear all snow from your property. Do not shovel snow into the street, or it will just be plowed back again. You can help prevent snow from piling up around your vehicles by removing them from the street before the storm, if possible. Assist our fire department by making sure you also dig out around fire hydrants. Please refrain from blocking streets or barricading parking spaces. Keeping streets clear helps Fire and EMS respond to emergencies.
How can I stay safe in the snow?
During extreme winter weather, the best way to protect your health and safety is to stay prepared and indoors as much as possible. Have food, medicine, and other supplies on hand before a storm that you may need for up to a week. Stay off the roads – whether in a vehicle or on foot – whenever you can. If you must go outside, dress appropriately for the weather in layers. Strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of illness and injury, especially heart attacks. Know the warning signs of a heart attack. If you or someone you are with exhibits these signs, call 911 right away. Keep in mind these tips for Food Safety After The Power Goes Out and Roof Safety During Winter Weather.
Who can I contact for help?
If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. For other emergencies related to snow storm, call 311 or 703.746.4311 or contact us online. Please do not call this number to ask when your street will be plowed. Complaints about compliance with the sidewalk ordinance may also be made by calling 311 or 703.746.4311.