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Snow Removal

The County snow plan covers more than 1,000 miles of roads. At the beginning of the winter season, 13,000 tons of salt stands ready to be dispersed by a fleet of more than 100 snow vehicles all equipped with automated vehicle-locating devices, allowing the Bureau AND YOU to track real time progress during a storm and see which Howard County roads have been serviced and how. Progress maps are updated every 15 minutes during a storm. You may also call 410-313-2900 for updated, general information concerning the Bureau's maintenance efforts.

When ice and/or snow endanger the safety of the traveling public, many factors are considered as County workers decide how to best manage the various winter driving conditions. Variables included in these decisions are the amount of snowfall, the duration and intensity of the storm, the meteorological parameters of temperature, humidity and wind force, and the availability of material, manpower, and equipment. Through careful analysis and by interfacing these factors, the men and women of the Bureau of Highways provide the maximum level of service possible to the citizens of Howard County.

HELPFUL TIPS

The Bureau of Highways reminds drivers not to park on streets, especially on a cul-de-sac as that makes snow removal nearly impossible for highway crews. Vehicles should be parked in driveways. This allows police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to respond quickly to public safety tasks while driving in treacherous conditions and leads to quick and complete clearing of the roads. Residents may also want to delay shoveling driveway aprons and sidewalks until the street has been completely cleared. Otherwise, it is very likely a full blade of snow will slide off the plow onto the driveway.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation in our efforts to provide the best possible snow removal service to our communities. 

OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES

At the beginning of a storm, de-icing materials are spread first to prevent the bonding of snow or ice to the road surface. Then, depending on the intensity of the storm, plowing operations follow.

The County's 3,800-road system is divided into a series of routes with a truck and operator assigned to each. Roads within those routes are prioritized for service into three categories: primary (Category A), secondary (Category B) and residential (Category C). Primary and secondary roads receive the first service to ensure that public safety vehicles can provide service to citizens. Drivers then concentrate their efforts on local residential roads. All County roads are serviced before the Bureau halts its efforts.

The Bureau of Highways operates under a three-tiered level of response. The level of effort is determined by the various elements of the storm.

Level I: Only Primary (Category A) roads are serviced in order to maintain critical services such as fire, ambulance, or police. At this level, inconvenience to the traveling public is likely.

Level II: Only Primary (Category A) and Secondary (Category B) roads are serviced. This could cause minor inconvenience. However, for the most part, the public is not adversely affected.

Level III: All County roads (Categories A, B, & C) are serviced with little or no inconvenience to the traveling public.

During a typical snowstorm, it takes approximately 24 to 36 hours to complete service to the entire County Road System. That system comprises existing dedicated and accepted roads, prescribed County-owned facilities, or other areas or roads formally identified by the Director of Public Works. The bureau is only responsible for the removal of ice and/or snow from roads within this designation.

EMERGENCIES

The Bureau of Highways provides access for emergency vehicles during life-threatening individual emergencies such as birth, illness, death, fuel deliveries, or fire upon the request of either the Police Department or the Fire Department. The Chief, Bureau of Highways, or the Highway Operations Superintendents evaluates and responds to each such request in the most effective manner.

CLEARING SIDEWALKS

Howard County does not maintain any sidewalks, including snow removal, with exception of the sidewalks adjacent to County buildings (libraries, offices, etc.). The owner of property abutting a sidewalk in a public right-of-way is responsible for removing snow from the sidewalk within 48 hours after the snow has fallen. In the event of a multi-unit building with more than one occupant, it shall be the duty of the lessor to remove the snow unless the lessor has obligated a tenant who is actually occupying the property to do so. (Howard County Code, Section 18.402(h). This applies to public streets and is applicable to sidewalks adjacent to public property.

If a property owner has not removed the snow within 48 hours, you may want to contact the property owner and advise him or her of the County code. If you are unsure who owns a property, contact our Real Estate Services Division at 410-313-2330. If you have an exact address, they can look up the property owner and may be able to give you a contact name and number.

Another idea is to reach out and ask the property owner if he or she needs assistance. Although the property owner would like to comply with the law, many residents are physically unable to shovel snow and ice and are hesitant to request help from neighbors or friends. Your thoughtfulness can make a big difference to someone who might otherwise be unable to cope.  

If you are willing to help remove snow for seniors or physically disabled individuals in your neighborhood who need help, please call Regina Jenkins of Howard County's MD Access Point at 410-313-1417 to volunteer for the "Snow Help" program.

As a last resort, to file a complaint, contact the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200.