Winter Guide 2016-2017

Go Montgomery



Clearing Sidewalks - If You Own Property, It's Your Responsibility

Clearing sidewalks within 24 hours after the end of a snowstorm is a civic responsibility that keeps our communities and neighbors safe – and it’s the law. Property owners are required to clear sidewalks in front of, and alongside, their properties. Make sure to clear walks wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. If your neighbor is elderly or disabled, you can assist them by clearing their sidewalks and checking on them during storms.

MCDOT will be doing its part by clearing ice and snow from 300 miles of County-owned sidewalks and more than 20 miles of major trails. Transit Services will also be clearing all bus shelters and stops that serve 15 or more daily passengers.

Residents who wish to report an unshoveled sidewalk can do so online, or by calling 311 (240-777-0311 outside County). Reports must include an exact address.



Who Clears the Snow?

MCDOT is responsible for clearing snow from 5,200 lane miles of County-maintained roads – but this doesn’t include every road in the County. All State-maintained, numbered roads in the County are cleared by the Maryland State Highway Administration. Other departments, outside agencies and governmental jurisdictions also have responsibility for plowing. They include Montgomery County Public Schools; 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 pushing snow into roadways.

Find out who plows your street by visiting the County’s Snow Portal.

When Snow or Ice is Predicted, MCDOT Springs into Action

County snow fighters begin their job well before snow is predicted to fall. Highway Services staff track weather reports days in advance to determine if the MCDOT Storm Operations Center should be activated and when to do so. Snow plow crews and truck mechanics at each depot are called to report in advance of a storm and may begin pretreating major roads with salt brine, a solution of salt and water, depending on conditions. Salt brine prevents ice and frost from forming on pavement and makes snow removal easier. The use of salt brine also reduces the amount of salt needed to treat pavement following a snowfall.

At the start of a storm, crews patrol to monitor road conditions. When snow or freezing precipitation begins to cover the roads, crews spread salt on emergency and primary neighborhood roads. Throughout a snow storm, the County spreads abrasives on hills, at intersections, and on roads around schools. Plows are ineffective until snowfall accumulations reach three inches. At that point, Highway Services starts plowing operations and continues salting, focusing on main roads. During the snowfall, about 1,000 lane miles of main roads are kept in “bare pavement” condition. This ensures that every County resident is within one-half mile of a cleared road and can be reached by emergency equipment. It also means that when residents leave their neighborhoods, the main roads are ready to handle traffic.

Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews turn their attention to removing snow from more than 4,300 miles of neighborhood streets. Their goal is to make these streets passable – not clear them to bare pavement. Crews eat and sleep at the depots and do not go home until snow removal operations are completed.

MCDOT has 200 Highway Services employees and 175 pieces of equipment to handle snow operations. If more resources are needed, contractors can be called upon immediately to provide hundreds of pieces of additional equipment and plow operators. 


During winter storm season, learn what you can do to keep you and your family safe: 

Before a storm

  • Ensure that you have enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days.
  • Check portable radio, smoke detectors and flashlights to ensure they are working and that the batteries are fresh. Fully charge your cell phone.
  • Check heating equipment. If you use propane or fuel oil, make sure that levels are near full.
  • Have a snow shovel ready.
  • Run necessary errands. Don't wait until the storm strikes.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is properly winterized and that snow tires and/or chains are ready. Also, keep a blanket, snow shovel, sand or kitty litter and flares in the vehicle. Fill the gas tank.
  • Park cars off-road, especially on narrow streets, to help snow plow operators safely clear streets from curb-to-curb. Where off-road parking is not available, work with neighbors to park cars on one side of the street.
  • Don't park on snow emergency routes during a declared snow emergency or your car may be towed. Major roads must be kept clear for emergency vehicles. Snow emergency routes are designated by red and white signs.
  • Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm.

During a Storm

  • Stay indoors. Only travel when absolutely necessary. Give snow plows a chance to clear the roads. If travel conditions become difficult, seek refuge and remain there until the storm has passed.
  • If you must go out, leave your car at home and take transit.
  • When going outside, ensure that you have proper clothing to protect you from the elements. A heavy coat, gloves, boots and a hat are a must.
  • If driving during the storm is unavoidable, put together a supply kit for the car that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, flares, blankets or sleeping bags, dry clothing, snacks and water, a small shovel, jumper cables, first aid kit and necessary medications.
  • Use extra caution on the road by leaving at least 10 feet between you and other vehicles.
  • Residents concerned about the safety and well-being of children, elderly individuals or adults with disabilities should call the County’s Crisis Center at 240-777-4000.

After a Storm

  • Remove snow and ice from doors, decks and gutters. If heavy snow accumulates on roofs do not attempt to use a ladder or climb onto the roof to remove it. Call a contractor instead.
  • Watch for downed power lines. If lines are down, do not touch wires or anything that the wires are touching. Contact your local utility. If wires are sparking, call 911.
  • Try to give snow plow operators a chance to remove snow or ice off highways and residential streets before venturing out.
  • If snow has covered fire hydrants, help to remove it so firefighters can easily locate them in the event of an emergency.


For Pedestrian and Drivers


  • Walk safely by obeying all traffic signs and signals.
  • Be aware that cars may not be able to stop as quickly on snow and ice. Do NOT walk in the roadway and watch for icy and slick spots.
  • Do not assume vehicles can see you. Wear reflective clothing.
  • Wear shoes or boots with non-slip soles.


  • Stay alert for pedestrians walking in the roadways, especially when visibility is low.
  • Drive slowly! Stopping distances increase in poor weather conditions.
  • Be especially alert for pedestrians at intersections where snow mounds may limit sight lines.

For Snow Shoveling

Dress appropriately for winter weather. Ears, hands and feet need extra protection in frigid temperatures.

Shovel as the snow falls, if you can. That way, there is less to remove. It’s also easier to remove fresh snow that has not hardened or turned to ice.

Put less pressure on your back. Lift with legs bent to avoid injury and try pushing the snow instead of lifting it.

Pace yourself and take it slow. Shoveling can raise blood pressure and heart rate dramatically.

Don't work to the point of exhaustion. Take it easy and take breaks. If you run out of breath or feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.

More Tips For...

Extreme Cold

Fires In The Home

Ice & Cold Weather

Avoiding Winter Fires in the Home

Staying Active in Cold Weather

20 Ways to Stay Warm (and Safe)

Car Checklist

Winter Health

Water Meters

Winter Heating

Winterizing Your Home 

Fire/Carbon Monoxide

 Fire Extinguishers





Winter Guide 2016-2017


Snow Portal

The County’s new Snow Portal consolidates everything about snow in one handy online location. Stay informed about the latest delays and closings, check the status of plowing in your neighborhood, submit a service request, or get more snow-related information. 


Ride On S (Storm) Service Plan

When severe weather or emergencies are expected to disrupt Ride On bus service on weekdays, Ride On may announce it will be operating under its “S” or Storm Service Plan. If the S Plan is announced, Ride On will operate some buses on nearly every route and try to provide trips that are evenly spaced. However, customers should expect delays and detours. The S Plan schedule and more information are available online in English and Spanish. Check online for service interruptions.


During Snowstorms, When is Parking Free in County Garages?

During a County-Executive declared snow emergency in Montgomery County, the MCDOT Director may announce that parking is free in County-owned garages for a specified time period. Getting cars off the roads enables the snow plows to do their work faster and more effectively. Check the Snow Portal or MCDOT’s website for announcements during storms.


Sign Up for Alert Montgomery 

Automatically receive email, text and pager alerts about emergencies, weather conditions, program and school closures, traffic and more by signing up for Alert Montgomery. 


Need More Information

Check the Snow Portal for the latest updates.

Contact the Montgomery County Call Center online, or by calling 311, or 240-777-0311 from outside the County.

Report power outages to your utility company:

  • First Energy/Potomac Edison: 1-888-544-4877
  • BG&E: 1-800-685-0123
  • PEPCO: 1-877-737-2662

Report problems on State roads (numbered roads in the County) to the Statewide Operations Center at 1-800-543-2515 or 410-582-5650.