Snow Removal

General Information

Howard County is responsible for snow removal from approximately 3,650 roads, encompassing about 1,045 centerline miles of roadway, 2,368 cul-de-sacs and 518 T-intersections or dead end roads. The County has 87 designated snow removal routes, with each comprised of an average of 15 centerline miles per route. 

At the beginning of the winter season, 32,500 tons of salt, 23,500 gallons of liquid magnesium and 45,000 gallons of brine stands ready to be dispersed by a fleet of more than 150 pieces of snow removal equipment all equipped with automated vehicle-locating devices, allowing the Bureau to see which Howard County roads have been serviced and how. You can track the progress of our snow removal equipment via the County's Snow Plower Tracker. The tracker allows residents to monitor progress across four different time frames while snow removal is underway. Residents are able to see if their street has been treated in the last four hours, between four and eight hours ago, between eight and 12 hours ago, or more than 12 hours ago. The tracker also aggregates highway traffic camera views, weather alerts and real-time traffic information into the display, providing residents with a one-stop shop for storm recovery information.

In addition, for general information concerning the Bureau's maintenance efforts during a winter weather event, contact the Citizen Information Hotline at 410-313-2900, email and/or follow the Howard County Government Facebook page or Twitter handle.

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 residents of Howard County.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is responsible for all the work and maintenance on interstate highways and on roads that have a route number (such as US 40, US 29, MD 32, MD 175, etc.). For an intersection that includes a state and county road, the state takes precedence and has jurisdiction. In Howard County, the SHA can be contacted at the Dayton office at 410-531-5533, or 1-800-635-5119, or online at

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 3,650-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 residents. 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 of six to 12", the County's goal is to have the entire County Road System cleared within 12 to 18 hours after the storm ends. All County roads are serviced before the Bureau halts its efforts. 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.

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. (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