Winter Weather Response: FAQs
Posted on 01/10/2020

In the words of one popular TV show, “Winter is Coming,” Newcastle! With last season’s Snowmageddon still fresh on the mind, we’re asking you to prepare yourself now, BEFORE the snow and ice start to accumulate.

Our team learned a lot from the unprecedented string of snow storms that hit our region. Our City maintenance staff’s round-the-clock dedication ensured Newcastle’s major arterials remained passable and safe for our community. We hope we don’t see another event like that anytime soon, but we’re prepared for anything that comes our way. Preparations for this winter season began over the summer!

The City saw a few snowflakes on Thursday morning, but we could see some impactful snow next week. We are closely monitoring the weather forecast and also have 24-hour access to meteorologists for further assistance. Crews are scheduled to respond on Sunday, Jan. 12, should conditions warrant. The City has an ample stockpile of sand, salt, and liquid anti-icing solution. The treatment method and material(s) used by our crews varies depending on the conditions.

IMPORTANT! Please DO NOT use YourGov, social media or call or email City Hall/Public Works staff,  to report that your street has not been plowed. Our crews will work as quickly and as safely as they can to reach your neighborhood. As we focus our energy on plow operations our staff is not able to respond to plowing requests. We must work on priority routes first and then move on to the neighborhood hills and arterials. When snow continues to fall, plows will not be available to clear local residential and less-traveled roads, as they must continue working to ensure major roads and transit routes are clear.

The City of Newcastle receives a lot of questions about procedures before, during and after snow events. Here are answers to a few of the more frequent ones, courtesy of Newcastle Public Works Director Jeff Brauns:

How does the city respond to snow and ice events?

Newcastle uses a snow-and-ice priority map to determine which roads get plowed first. View it at newcastlewa.gov/snowmap (we recommend bookmarking this for future reference). The priorities are numbered from one to five, with Priority 1 streets representing major arterial lifeline routes. We've added a Priority 5 in this 2020 edition, which represents mostly local streets with steep hills. During snow events, City crews’ first priorities are roadways that transport large volumes of traffic. Crews try and fit in neighborhood streets as they're able, but not before priority routes are clear.

How do you decide which streets to prioritize?

For any snow event, our number one goal is to keep designated priority routes in good winter driving condition. Priority routes are lifelines, major thoroughfares, and arterial roadways and streets.

I saw the snow plow in my neighborhood but it did not plow my street/cul-de-sac.

Once the priority 1-5 roads are in good shape, our crews will then start working on the neighborhood streets. The first goal once neighborhood street plowing begins is to get the main road through a neighborhood passable. It is important to remember that our crews still have to maintain the priority roads. They may start your neighborhood and have to leave to do so.

Our crews and plows must work on priority routes first and then move on to working on the neighborhood hills and arterials. When snow continues to fall, plows will not be available to clear local residential and less-traveled roads as they must continue working to ensure major roads and transit routes are clear.

We all pay taxes, why doesn’t the city de-ice and plow all the streets – specifically secondary and residential streets?

Newcastle has several miles to cover and limited resources, including snowplows (four total), storage capacity for materials (de-icer, sand, and salt) to treat surfaces, and maintenance personnel (our small, but mighty, six-team staff trades 12-hour shifts during the busiest events to ensure the streets are maintained). Our priorities have to focus on ensuring accessibility for life lines, main arterials and thoroughfares and main connector streets. We do not plow or de-ice private roads or driveways.

Will the snowplows ever completely clear my residential street down to bare pavement?

As we work to conserve materials and preserve equipment, it is not a reasonable expectation to have all streets clear down to bare pavement.

Who is responsible for clearing snow on my sidewalk?

It is the property owners' responsibility to clear snow off the sidewalk, driveway or parking lot in front of your residence or storefront (See Newcastle Municipal Code Chapter 12.70). Thanks for doing your part to help keep walkways clear for our community!

Snow removal and de-icing are essential for safe vehicle and pedestrian travel throughout Newcastle, however de-icing can pollute our creeks and lakes if it is not done properly. The best way to remove snow and ice from privately owned sidewalks, driveways and parking lots is by physical means like shoveling and snow blowing. Although shoveling can be challenging, it is effective and does not cause environmental harm. Learn more about preventing pollution if you use de-icer during storms here.

Why do the plows block my driveway with snow or cover over the areas I just shoveled? Am I responsible for those areas?

This is an unfortunate side effect of plowing. When snow plowing takes place, snow is not removed but rather pushed to the side of the road. Snowplow drivers will make every effort to avoid plowing snow onto sidewalks or driveways. However, there may be times that this cannot be avoided and sidewalks or driveways may become blocked. It is the property owner's responsibility to clear the snow. Please do not put the snow back in the street.

What if the snow plows missed my street?

IMPORTANT! 

Please DO NOT use YourGov to report that your street has not been plowed.

Please DO NOT call or email City Hall/Public Works staff to report that your street has not been plowed.

Please DO NOT report over social media that your street has not been plowed. 

Please DO NOT call our non-emergency line to report that your street has not been plowed.

Our crews will work as quickly and as safely as they can to reach your neighborhood. As we focus our energy on plow operations our staff is not able to respond to personal plowing requests. We must work on priority routes first and then move on to the neighborhood hills and arterials. When snow continues to fall, plows will not be available to clear local residential and less-traveled roads, as they must continue working to ensure major roads and transit routes are clear.

What can residents do to help during ice and storm events?

• First, please avoid driving if it's at all possible.

• If you do have to drive, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some winter driving tips. Read WSDOT's great list of tips and advice here.

• If there's space, please park all vehicles in your driveway or garage to keep roads clear for the snow plows. 

• Never abandon your vehicle in the middle of the road during a snow storm. If you absolutely must abandon your vehicle for safety reasons, please move entirely out of traffic lanes and onto the shoulder so that plows and emergency vehicles can pass. Vehicles abandoned on arterial streets may be towed at owner’s expense.

• If you live on a steep hill, consider moving your vehicle to a location that is more accessible ahead of the storm. Park at the bottom and walk up to your home or cul-de-sac.

• When shoveling or using a snow blower, please do not deposit snow back into the street.

• If you find yourself behind a snowplow, slow down and give the plow a little extra room.

How can I stay informed during snow events?

Stay tuned to the City of Newcastle’s website and social media pages for the latest storm updates. This will be your best resource for news on waste collection delays, plowing progress and road closures. Bookmark newcastlewa.gov and follow us on our social media accounts. During inclement weather, we will post updates on all three of our social media accounts Nextdoor, Facebook (fb.com/newcastlewa) and Twitter (twitter.com/cityofnewcastle).

During a snow event, staff is committed to providing at least one a.m. update and one p.m. update. We will post additional updates as necessary.

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