During a snow or ice storm, the County prioritizes treatment by the volume of traffic each road normally carries.
Primary roads are given top priority and will be plowed first. These roads are main arteries and/or snow emergency routes. Secondary roads, which are typically roads that connect primary roads or are high volume residential roads, are treated and plowed next, followed by low volume local residential streets and cul-de-sacs.
There may be some exceptions to these rules, particularly if treating a particular route facilitates the dispatch of snow removal equipment, is needed to accommodate high-volume traffic, alleviates extraordinary topographical features, helps give access to emergency vehicles or is needed to give access to dense population groupings.
All County roads are serviced before the Bureau halts its efforts.
The County’s goal, for a typical 6-12” snowfall, is to have all County roadways cleared within 12 to 18 hours after the storm ends.
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.
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 Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The Chief, Bureau of Highways, or the Highway Operations Superintendents evaluates and responds to each such request in the most effective manner. If you are experiencing an emergency situation during a snow event, call 911 immediately.
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. See Howard County Code, Section 18.402(h)(1). This applies to public streets and is applicable to sidewalks adjacent to public property. However, per Section 18.402(h)(2), if the County Executive declares a state of emergency under Section 6.103 of the County Code, the County Executive may extend the time to remove snow.
If a property owner has not removed the snow within the allotted time frame, 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 Department of Public Works, 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 might 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.
As a last resort, to file a complaint, contact the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200.
Howard County’s Department of Public Works makes every effort to plow and salt County roads quickly and safely during all winter weather emergencies. Because of the road conditions during inclement weather, some property damage is unavoidable. The following represents the County’s policy for handling claims for damage to property resulting from the County’s snow removal activities.
1. County law permits mailboxes to be placed in the County right of way.
2. If a mailbox that conforms to County law is damaged as a result of physical contact of a snowplow or other piece of snow removal equipment, the County will reimburse the homeowner for actual costs based upon the predetermined maximum value ($75) of a standard issue mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item. Homeowners who have an ornamental or decorative mailbox in the County right of way do so at their own risk: The County will not replace or pay for damage to a non-standard mailbox, e.g.; ornamental, that is located within the County right of way. Installation costs that the homeowner chooses to incur will not be reimbursed.
3. If a mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item is damaged as a result of the weight or impact of snow and ice being moved by a County snowplow, but there has been no physical contact with the mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item by a piece of County equipment, the County will not assume responsibility for the cost of repair or replacement of the mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item.
B. Other Structures
1.On occasion, structures other than mailboxes may be placed within the County right of way by permit obtained in conformity with the County Code.
2. Claims for damage to structures that are permitted to be located in the County right of way and that are built in conformity with the permit will be handled in the same way as claims for damage to mailboxes:
a. Unless otherwise stated in a written agreement with the property owner, the County will pay the cost of repair or replacement if there has been physical contact with the structure.
b. The County will not pay for damage caused by the movement of show or ice.
3. The County assumes no responsibility for damage caused by non-permitted structures located within the County right of way.
1. Many property owners plant and seed within the County right of way adjoining their property. In the ordinary course of removing snow from County roads, damage to this kind of landscaping will occur – from movement of snow and ice, from contact with the equipment, and from salting.
2. The County does not assume responsibility for damage to plantings that have been done in the County right of way.
3. The County’s Department of Public Works does maintain the right of way, the Department will repair damage to seeded areas in accordance with its procedures. The County will not, however, pay for any repair or replacement work in the right of way by the owner of private property adjoining or adjacent to the right of way.
Snow removal activities do not usually cause damage to private property adjoining the roads that the County plows, that is, property outside the County’s right of way. Any claim that property located outside the County right of way was damaged as a result of the County’s snow removal operations will be investigated, and liability will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Snow removal involves the operation of very large vehicles during extreme weather conditions and time pressures. Although our operators make every attempt to avoid it, occasionally parked vehicles will be accidentally struck by snow removal equipment.
State law prohibits parking vehicles on any roadway that is designated and appropriately posted as a Snow Emergency Route when a snow emergency is declared and is in effect. The County will not pay for the repair of any parked vehicle which is struck by snow removal equipment on an emergency route when a snow emergency is in effect.
If you believe injury or damage to your property was caused by a County employee or involved a County-owned vehicle or property, please fill out and submit the Citizen Report Form for County-Related Incident to the Howard County Office of Risk Management, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Box 303, Columbia, MD 21046. Property owners are asked to please make sure to take pictures of the damage, if possible, before the snow melts, and include them with your report form, so that the Office of Risk Management can make an accurate assessment.
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