Snow and Ice Control Plan
Delivery of emergency snow response services to the citizens of Washoe County, and those who travel our streets during snow storms, is a primary responsibility of the County Community Services Department-Operations Division. The Division takes pride in performing this service in an efficient and effective manner, with an emergency snow response plan that is both proven and economical for normal winter weather in unincorporated Washoe County areas.
The goal of Washoe County is to provide fiscally responsible emergency response services during snow events, supporting the safety and mobility of our transportation system by plowing and treating county streets as efficiently as possible, keeping priority streets passable, minimizing disruption to traffic, and keeping costs to a minimum.
The purpose of this plan is to annually review our snow and ice control methods and procedures, and to ensure that all work is done in a safe, efficient and environmentally sound manner. As a result of this planning effort, Washoe County residents will have priority streets that are safe and accessible. Finally, because Truckee Meadows is considered a non-attainment area for air quality, the annual plan must be designed to meet the Washoe County Health District Air Quality Mandates.
Washoe County’s road inventory contains approximately 710 paved center lane miles and another 368 miles of gravel roads for a total of 1,078 center lane miles divided into 34 snow and ice control routes. Routes are created utilizing geographic areas, neighborhoods, and are generally able to be plowed in an eight hour shift. Main roads are utilized as boundaries whenever possible so that the two adjoining routes can plow the main roads helping keep them clear. Priority is given to arterial and collector streets along with school routes and Regional Transportation (RTC) bus routes. Essential facilities such as fire stations and hospitals are also on priority routes. These are labeled as priority 1 routes. Next to be serviced would be neighborhood streets and are labeled as priority 2 routes, all other types of streets fall into priority 3 routes, such as Cul-de-sacs and dead-end and industrial streets. Cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets are the last priority for two reasons, they generally contain few homes, and due to the nature of their design are very time consuming to plow. Information regarding individual streets can be found on our website at www.washoecounty.us/csd/operations/roads.php.
From November through March, the County begins daily monitoring of the weather forecasts for any approaching winter storms. Based on the forecast and experience requirements for staffing, (crew supervisors and employees) and equipment needed for each individual storm is determined. Each storm is individually evaluated, and a pre-event action planning meeting is held. Depending on the size, duration, and temperature associated with a particular storm, the crews may work alternative shifts to provide safe, efficient and effective support for snow and ice control when and where it is needed. The Community Services Department Operations division director will be kept apprised of the planning on a regular basis, especially when required resources exceed the available county owned resources.
It is difficult to set a standing crew start time for every storm in advance because every storm has different characteristics. Factors considered include:
- projected storm duration
- intensity, which includes wind speeds, and snowfall rates
- day of the week and resulting impact on expected traffic volumes
- temperature (type of precipitation)
- projected start time
- projected snow level
- area of probable impact
Additional factors that hinder snow response during an event and are considered in the planning include:
- garbage pick up day/area
- parked vehicles
- equipment failures
- fallen trees
- downed power lines
- presence of pedestrians and pets.
For each storm, a crew supervisor is on call 24 hours a day to monitor the storm activity. As the storm approaches this supervisor begins to call the crews into action as determined during the pre-event action planning meeting. The Incline Village/Crystal Bay area additionally has an employee living at the maintenance yard who monitors each storm in Incline Village.
In general experience has shown that for overnight snow events, crews need to be on the road plowing by 3:00am in the Truckee Meadows, and at 4:00am for Incline Village to treat priority one roads and school bus routes prior to 7:00 am. Snow operations are most effective when the plows are out prior to commuter traffic packing the snow making it difficult and timely to remove. The goal is to have all priority one routes passable by 7:00 am. In the event of heavy snow priority two and three streets will not be cleared until the snow lets up allowing less attention to priority one routes.
For snow events that begin during the day and last into the night hours safety of the commute is of high importance. In general, staff will be held over from their day shift to work until 7:00 pm to help provide a safe commute, but the majority will be sent home after that time. The reason to send staff home is based on the license requirements of the operators who are limited, by law, to work a 14 hour shift prior to a mandated 10 hour rest period. The rest period needs to be met for a possible 3:00 am or 4:00 am start time as discussed for overnight snow events. Again these decisions are determined for each storm.
Weekend storm events are treated differently than weekday events. Generally weekend storms are treated with less urgency for priority one routes due to not needing to have school and bus routes cleared. This alters the operator’s route slightly and may impact the time they treat an area. Weekend storms also involve additional hazards that need to be planned for including children sledding; people clearing their driveways onto streets; ATVs operating on streets; and additional vehicles parked on the streets. All of these items increase the time it takes to plow a route.
In case of heavy snow accumulation or a prolonged storm, crew supervisors and their crews will work alternating twelve-hour shifts or longer if needed. Each crew will consist of 1 Supervisor and the required number of employees for that shift as determined by the snow response plan for that specific snow event. This rotation will continue until the required snow and ice control is completed. In the event the snow accumulation exceeds our ability to clear and maintain our road systems, the director of Operations will have the option to call on contractors to help in the clearing of roads. Priorities will be given to the routes hit with the most snow accumulations first. These areas will be cleared to one lane in and one lane out only.
Available Snow Removal Equipment
The following table shows the equipment available by area.
|Area||Lane Miles||Truck Plows||Loader Plows||Graders||Backhoes||Snow Blower||Small Truck Plow|
*One truck snow blower is available as needed from Incline
**Consists of four loader mounted units and one truck and one small blower for pedestrian paths.
Washoe County Roads has a total available operator staff of fifty (50) employees. Of the fifty (50) employees six (6) are dedicated to Gerlach/Vya. All other staff members are utilized in the Truckee Meadows and Incline/Crystal Bay areas and are deployed specific to each storm. During a snow and ice event, fleet mechanics are available 24 hours a day to support the snow and ice control operations, such as plow blade replacements and equipment repairs.
Sanding & Brining Procedures
Our ice control material is either brine* (salt water solution) or a mixture of salt and sand. During sanding operations, a mixture of one part salt and three parts sand is utilized. Brine will be used as a pre-treatment for grades, bridges and high volume roadways to help assist in keeping these areas free from ice and snow. The individual operators determine when and where to best apply the material based on their training and professional experience. Not all operators apply ice control material in the same manner.
*FAQs for Salt Brine
What is the County spraying on the roadway?
It is brine. It’s a mixture of water and salt and is applied to the roadway to prevent the snow from bonding to the road.
Why are they spraying today? It’s not snowing?
The brine can be applied up to seven days prior to a storm. When it dries in place the saturation from the new snow will reactivate it. We anticipate applying the brine solution during normal operating hours, 3-4 days prior to a predicted storm, which will also help reduce overtime.
Will brine hurt our vehicles or cause them to rust?
Washing or rinsing your vehicle of the brine solution after each storm event should reduce any effect on your vehicle.
Why is brine being used?
Brine will significantly reduce the amount of snow that bonds to the roadway, which will allow the snow to be plowed much easier. By applying brine, we are reducing the amount of salt and sand that would typically be applied to the roadways.
Salt/Sand Staging Areas
Washoe County has three main storage areas for deicing materials and works with regional partners such as the cities of Reno and Sparks, and Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) for additional distribution of stockpiles around the area. A piece of equipment with loading capabilities will be located at each of these locations for loading deicing materials into the trucks.
Because air quality in Washoe County has not met EPA Standards, the Washoe County Health District has mandated regulations to improve air quality. These mandates affect how our snow and ice control program is conducted. The goal of this program is 1) to reduce the amount of sand spread on county streets for snow and ice control; 2) reduce the time required to sweep up this sand after a storm event; and 3) use a harder sand material. By reducing the amount of sand utilized, the particulate matter (PM) entrained in the ambient air as a result of blowing winds, the roads drying out, and vehicles traveling over the sand will be reduced.
After a storm event, street sweepers will be sent out to remove all applied salt/sand materials as expeditiously and safely as weather and road conditions permit. In order to comply with Washoe Health Regulation mandates, the County has four (4) days after the end of a storm event to have all salt/sand materials removed from its streets. The County currently has six (6) street sweepers. The number of street sweepers required will depend on the amount of salt/sand spread and the number of areas covered.
Sand Reduction Methods Used to Help Comply with Mandates
- Utilizing brine pre-treatment.
- Using electronic/computer monitored spreaders / application equipment.
- Calibrate the equipment used for sand application at least annually.
- Using Enhanced Sweeping Strategy (less than 4 days).
Post Storm Procedures
At the completion of the storm, the drivers wash, grease and perform maintenance on all snow and ice control vehicles. In the event of any malfunction of these vehicles, the crew member immediately notifies fleet management. This will enable operators to have these critical vehicles repaired and street worthy prior to the next storm.
Fleet management will staff their operations to be able to service the equipment prior to the next storm event.
Roads which are identified as major arterial and collectors, major structures, overpasses, bridges, steep grades, school bus routes at or above 6,000 feet, emergency vehicle routes, fire station sites, schools and freeway feeder streets.
Roads which are identified as secondary arterial, secondary collectors, residential roads, all remaining school bus routes.
All unpaved routes, Cul-de-sacs and County jogging/bicycle paths. Snow/ice control activities are staged out of these four maintenance yards: Longley Lane, Incline Village, Gerlach, and Vya. From these locations, crews address the prioritized snow routes. Each location is equipped and staffed to function independently.