Northern Virginia Snow: Learn More

How do we prepare when winter weather is forecasted?

Check out our 2018-2019 fact sheet

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

Several days in advance, crews may treat critical locations when pavement temps are above 20 degrees and weather will not begin as rain. Anti-icing treatment is most effective during the first hour of weather events.

2,150 lane miles of interstates and major roads including bridges, ramps, and overpasses are treated with brine and/or liquid magnesium chloride.

Brine is a mix of 23% salt and 77% water. It is sprayed as a liquid that dries to create white “brine lines” on the pavement.

Mobilizing Equipment
About 12-18 hours prior to a small event and 18-24 hours prior to a large event, trucks report, load, and deploy around northern Virginia. If two or more inches of snow are forecasted, residents may see trucks begin to stage in neighborhoods.

How do we clear roads?

In northern Virginia, crews work interstates, major roads, and main subdivision roads in priority order. Crews begin plowing when two inches of snow 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 633 “snow maps” assigned to plow drivers. Drivers complete a minimum of one pass on each road. 

What can you expect after a storm?

Clearance Goals After A Storm Ends
For one passable lane on all subdivisions:
2-4” of snow: 24 hours 
4-6”of snow: 48 hours
6” or more: More than 72 hours

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 we do not clear sidewalks, crews are asked to be mindful, especially near schools. There is often limited room to pile snow 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?

  • Monitor weather closely, as forecasts can improve or worsen quickly.
  • Park in driveways or on the same side of the street to allow plows room to pass.
  • Adjust commutes, telework, or avoid driving during a storm and after until road conditions improve.
  • Have enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tires, medication, and an emergency car kit.
  • Give plows room to work
  • Please be patient

How can you stay informed?


Lane miles to clear

Total: 13,942
Interstate: 770
Primary: 1,791
Secondary: 11,306
» We plow an additional 4,000 miles of turn lanes and ramps
» Our secondary road system contains 16,000 subdivision streets


3,500 VDOT and contract vehicles
97% of fleet is contracted

Materials at start of season

Brine: 250,000 gallons
Salt: 120,000 tons
Sand: 25,000 tons


» 18 area headquarters
» 24 salt domes
» Our largest dome, at I-495 and Van Dorn Street in Alexandria, 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: 72+ hours

Check out our 2018-2019 fact sheet

Page last modified: Dec. 14, 2018