Northern Virginia Snow: Learn More

» View 2016-2017 Snow Fact Sheet

How do we prepare?

We monitor the forecast closely with National Weather Service and Iteris, and a mobilization plan is decided.

Up to 48 hours prior, crews treat critical locations when pavement temps are above 20 degrees and weather will not begin as rain. This anti-icing is most effective during the first hour of the storm.

On interstates, about 450 lane miles of bridges, ramps and roads prone to freezing are treated with liquid magnesium chloride. On major roads such as Routes 1, 7, 28, and 50, crews treat about 1,700 lane miles with brine.

Brine (77% water, 23% salt) helps prevents ice from bonding to the road surface, reduces salt needed to melt ice, is kinder to the environment, and can lower snow removal time and costs.

Mobilizing Equipment
About 12-18 hours prior to a small event and 18-24 hours for large events, trucks report, load, and deploy around northern Virginia. When two or more inches are forecast, trucks are staged in subdivisions.

How do we clear roads?

In northern Virginia, crews work interstates, major roads, and main subdivision roads concurrently. Crews begin plowing when two inches have fallen.

Interstates and high-volume roads are made passable, then bare pavement where possible. Subdivision main roads are made passable, then remaining streets and cul-de-sacs.

Northern Virginia roads are divided among 613 “snow maps” assigned to plow drivers. Drivers complete a minimum of one pass on each road. This year, 180 VDOT employees will ride the roads to monitor progress and more than 30 will monitor remotely.

What can you expect after a storm?

Clearance Goals
For one passable lane on all subdivisions:
2-4” of snow: 24 hours after storm ends
4-6”of snow: 48 hours after storm ends
6” or more: More than 48 hours after storm ends

What Does “Passable” Mean?
In neighborhoods, an 8- to 10-foot path for emergency vehicle access. It is drivable with extreme caution, but is snow-packed and not curb-to-curb or to bare pavement. Crews will sand hills, curves and intersection to help with traction.

Sidewalks and Trails
While VDOT cannot address with road-clearing priorities, crews are asked to be mindful, especially near schools. There is often limited room to pile snow, especially in significant storms, to make roads passable. Residents and businesses are asked to clear near their properties. Check with your locality for ordinances.

The plows will push some snow back, so view our video for tips on shoveling before they arrive.

How can you help?

  • Park in driveways or on the odd-numbered side of the street to allow plows room to pass
  • Monitor forecasts carefully
  • Adjust commutes, telework, and avoid driving if possible
  • Ensure enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tires, food, water and medicine when driving
  • Give plows room to work
  • Be patient

How can you stay connected?


Lane miles to clear

Total: 13,413
Interstate: 725
Primary: 1,732
Secondary: 10,878
» We plow an additional 4,000 miles of turn lanes and ramps
» Our secondary road system contains 16,000 subdivision streets


4,564 VDOT and contract vehicles
95% of fleet is contracted

Materials on hand

Salt: 152,155 tons
Brine: 44,705 gallons
Sand: 20,338 tons


» 18 area headquarters
» 24 salt domes
» The dome at I-495 and Van Dorn, our largest, holds 33,000 tons of salt

Clearance goals: How long for a passable lane on all roads?

2-4" of snow: 24 hours
4-6" of snow: 48 hours
6"+ of snow: 48+ hours

Snow budget: $82.7 million

Page last modified: June 21, 2017