Winter Operations and Procedures

Department of Public Works

One of our most visible road maintenance operations involves snowplowing and sanding. We are responsible for plowing and sanding approximately 95 miles of town roads. We have 12 pieces of plow equipment that we put on the road for a typical storm. Six of these units have sanders on the back of them. Two or more additional private plow trucks are frequently hired to assist with plowing operations. We also have a catch basin truck, backup trash truck, Volvo loader and back hoe that can either be added to the fleet or used as backups in case one of our primary plow vehicles breaks down or it is a major storm. Of the six sanders, four are equipped with calcium chloride pre-wetting systems. All of the sand that is spread is premixed with salt. We are currently using a sand to salt ratio of 3 to 1 unless the temperature gets below 20 degrees and then we go to 10 to 1. Salt has very little melting power below 20 degrees and we don’t want to waste it when it’s not effective anyway. All of our salt is stored under cover in our salt shed as exposed salt piles have been found to be a major source of groundwater contamination.

The DPW monitors storm progress utilizing computer radar and forecasting service that is very similar to what is used at major airports. This enables the DPW personnel to prepare themselves and the equipment for the forecast conditions. If the storm starts during the night, the police on duty call the DPW to alert them of snow accumulating on the roads.

At the onset of a storm, 6 sand truck operators and one loader operator are called in to begin sanding operations. It typically takes 2 1/2 hours to sand all the town roads. This time can increase dramatically in the event of a breakdown or icing conditions. Plowing begins when snow accumulates to between 2-4 inches on the roads. This continues until the storm is over, at which point clean up operations begin. This involves pushing back snow at the road edges and making intersections totally clear. It takes approximately 4 hours to plow all Town roads once. Keep in mind that snowplows only move at 10-15 mph and most roads require two passes. Clearing intersections and cul de sacs, significantly slows the process down.

DPW staff are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In a major storm, it is not unusual for DPW workers to be on duty for 24-30 hours straight with only occasional rest breaks.