ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- Montgomery County officials today announced the launch of a new, online tool that will make it easier for residents to decide when to safely venture out following a snowstorm.
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The map tool will show the progress of snow plows throughout the County and indicate when emergency roads, primary neighborhood streets and neighborhood streets have been cleared. A zoom feature allows residents to focus on the plow status of their immediate neighborhood and surrounding streets and then zoom out to check on an entire trip route.
"Following last year's record-breaking snowfalls, I asked all our departments to find ways to better communicate with residents during storms," said Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. "After looking at commercial, online, map systems that track real-time status of snow plowing operations, our departments of Transportation and Technology Services decided that they could put together a far less expensive and more effective tool that specifically meets Montgomery County's needs. I'm proud of their ingenuity and ability to deliver this tremendous aid to our residents."
Each road category, whether an emergency/main route or neighborhood street, is designated on the map by a different color. Patterns are used to show whether plowing has begun or not, is in progress or complete. Residents are encouraged to consult the map before concluding their street has been missed.
The map includes a handy icon that allows residents to see road views from any of the county's nearly 200 traffic cameras. Also shown is helpful information about the location of bus stops and Metro stations. The online map system allows residents to easily report an intersection that needs additional sand or salt, a missed street, or a damaged mailbox.
Since many roads in the county are not cleared by the county's Department of Transportation (MCDOT), it can be confusing for residents. All State-maintained, numbered roads (such as Georgia Avenue, Maryland Route 97 or Rockville Pike, Maryland Route 355) in the County are cleared by the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA). A link to information from MSHA about their plowing progress is also available.
Other departments, outside agencies and governmental jurisdictions also have responsibility for plowing. They include the Montgomery County Board of Education; the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro); municipalities; and homeowner's associations. Commercial parking lot owners plow their own properties and are prohibited from moving snow into the street.
During a snowfall, MCDOT works continuously to salt and sand nearly 1,000 lane miles of primary (arterial roads connecting subdivisions or business districts) and secondary roads (main collector streets through subdivisions) and keep them in "bare pavement" condition. This ensures that in case of an emergency every County resident is within one-half mile of a cleared road. As snow accumulations reach three inches, plowing operations begin and all attention remains focused on keeping primary roads clear to ensure emergency access.
Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews then turn their attention to snow removal from more than 4,100 lane miles of neighborhood streets. It's important for residents to understand that MCDOT's goal is to make these streets passable - not clear them to bare pavement.
The type of snow (wet or powdery), pavement temperature, ambient air temperature, and wind conditions following a storm affect how quickly snow can be removed. MCDOT offers these general guidelines:
• It takes about 16 hours following the end of a three-inch snowfall to plow or treat every County road once.
• After a 10-inch snowfall, major and primary County roads should be cleared and neighborhood streets made passable within 24 to 36 hours. Snow removal will continue until all streets have been treated at least once.
• After a 15-inch snowfall, crews should complete their work in about 36 to 48 hours.
• After a 24-inch snowfall, crews should complete the work in about 48 to 60 hours.
A workforce of 200 employees with 175 pieces of snow removal equipment and 180 contractors with 225 pieces of equipment work around the clock until all County-maintained streets are passable. More resources may be called in for exceptional storms.