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Our Highway Unit is the primary response team during snow and ice events. One of the major challenges the unit incurs is snow being shoveled back into plowed streets after city teams clear the street. This practice is not only illegal, it's a hazard to drivers and pedestrians. Another challenge is cars parked too close to a corner, which interfere with the turning radius of snow removal equipment. Philadelphia Code 12-9131(1)(b)(iii) prohibits parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection.

Snow Response

Snow Response is a system that identifies various categories of weather conditions and indicates the City's response to each category. 

Winter Driving Guide

Please Download "Winter Driving Guide" provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Public safety is the first priority during snow and ice storms for the city's 2,575 miles of streets. Our objective is to return Philadelphians to their normal business as quickly as possible, and to provide safe conditions at all times. Keep in mind that the severity of the storm can affect the Street Department's timetable.

To provide safe roadway conditions for traffic on primary, secondary, and tertiary (residential) streets throughout the City, the Streets Department has a Snow and Ice Removal Operations Plan. The plan outlines the process for alerting and deploying personnel and materials to address weather conditions ranging from minor accumulations to blizzards.

We use several professional weather services to anticipate winter weather conditions. When snow or ice is predicted, the City schedules response crews for standby, so we can respond quickly. Once the storm hits, the City dispatches some or all of its salt spreaders/plows to clear City streets. The strategy used to clear streets depends on several factors:
  • Time the snow began
  • Duration of snowfall
  • Type of snow - light/dry or wet/heavy
  • Temperature before and after snowfall
  • High winds - drifting
  • Snow accumulation
  • Available equipment
  • Available staff

Snow Emergency Tips

Salting Tips

Shoveling Tips

Winter Weather Driving Tips

Home Safety Tips

Portable Space Heating Equipment Tips


Salting Tips

  • Any commercial de-icer, for example, those sold in hardware stores and supermarkets, is acceptable for salting your sidewalk or driveway
  • Salt should be applied as soon as light accumulation has developed. This breaks the bond between further accumulations and the pavement surface, making it easier to shovel. A final light application may be required after removal is completed to melt the remaining snow. During sleet or freezing rain, de-icing of sidewalks and driveways requires multiple applications as dictated by conditions
  • Be conscious of the environment. Use de-icing salts sparingly. One pound can cover 100 to 200 square feet. For example, 30 to 60 feet of sidewalk with a width of 3 feet can be treated at this rate. The material can be spread manually or with simple equipment such as a lawn spreader. (The spreader should be rinsed out once the application is completed.)
  • Kitty litter can also be used to generate temporary traction

Shoveling Tips

  • Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction
  • Avoid over-exertion. Cold weather can strain the heart. Unfamiliar exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Rest frequently and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Stretch before you go out to shovel snow, to warm up your body and help prevent injury
  • Be aware of utilities when shoveling snow. Do not cover fire hydrants with snow when clearing sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel snow into manholes
  • Remember to help neighbors who may require special assistance – the elderly and those with disabilities
  • Do not throw snow into the street

Winter Weather Driving Tips

If you must go out in a storm, it is safer to take public transportation whenever possible. If you must drive, follow these tips:
  • Clear your vehicle of snow and ice, including the windows, mirrors, roof, trunk, hood, and lights
  • Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges
  • Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks plowing the roadway
  • Do not pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles
  • Where possible, do not park along the street or on the corner. Snowplow drivers cannot clear a road when cars are in their way
  • If you must park or abandon your vehicle, avoid leaving it at a bus stop or a corner, as it hampers recovery efforts and may result in your car being towed
  • Keep a small sack of sand or kitty litter in your car for traction under wheels
  • Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car. This should include a manual can opener, canned food, and bottled water

Home Safety Tips

  • Listen to KYW News Radio, local radio, and TV stations like the Weather Channel for updates. Be aware of changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel, as regular sources may be cut off
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who need assistance preparing for a storm
  • Always keep a manual can opener, canned food, and bottled water for emergency situations

Power Outage Tips

  • Use a battery-powered radio to get information about the storm
  • Turn off electrical appliances that were on when the power went off to avoid a power surge and possible damage to them when power is restored
  • If power will be out a long time, consider going to a Red Cross shelter, hotel, or someone else's home, but ONLY after the roads are passable and authorities say it's safe to travel
  • Use flashlights. Do not use candles, as they increase risk of fire. Candles are easily forgotten or knocked over

Portable Space Heating Equipment Tips

  • Use equipment approved for indoor use
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source
  • Keep an eye on the equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off if you're unable to closely monitor it
  • Dry wet mittens, gloves, socks and scarves in a clothes dryer. NEVER drape them over a space heater to dry

If a Snow Emergency is Declared

As winter weather approaches, the Streets Department monitors weather forecasts to provide advance notice of weather conditions. When snow accumulations approach emergency status, the Managing Director may declare a snow emergency. Stay tuned to local radio and television news. If a Snow Emergency is declared, the City will plow the 110 miles of snow emergency routes from curb-to-curb. This means owners of vehicles and dumpsters must move them to alternate parking spaces. Vehicles that cannot move under their own power are not exempt. Vehicles and dumpsters cannot park on snow emergency routes until the emergency has been declared over. Residents should look for snow emergency route signs along streets where they work, live, or shop. They are large signs reading "Snow Emergency Route" in white letters on a red background. Plan ahead for alternate parking accommodations.

Failure to move vehicles and dumpsters can result in a towing charge up to $150.00 or a substantial fine. If your vehicle has been towed from a Snow Emergency Route, call 215-686-SNOW, and be prepared to provide information to identify your vehicle. Citizens should NOT call 911. Police Department dispatchers do not have information on vehicles towed as a result of plowing operations. Motorists may drive on snow emergency routes as long as their vehicles are equipped to handle adverse conditions. Vehicles that stall or become stuck along snow emergency routes are also subject to towing and fines.

Snow Emergency Routes

Philadelphia Code 10-720 Regarding Snow Removal From Sidewalks

According to Philadelphia Code (10-720),

"(1) the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premise shall clear a path of not less than 36" in width on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within 6 (six) hours after the snow has ceased to fall. The path shall be thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Where the width of any pavement measured from the property line to the curb is less than 3 (three) feet, the path cleared may be only 12 inches in width. When the building in question is a multifamily dwelling the owner or his agent shall be responsible for compliance with the requirements of this section."

(2) Snow or ice removed from sidewalks, driveways, or other areas shall not be placed or piled in the street.

(3) Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to the provisions and penalties set forth in 10-718 and 10-719.

The penalty for violating this provision can range from "a minimum fine of fifty dollars ($50) to no more than three hundred dollars ($300) for each violation."

Private plows piling snow in the street after city teams have cleared the road is illegal as well as a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.