Northern Virginia Snow: Learn More

How do we prepare when wintry weather is forecasted?

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

Several days in advance, crews can 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.

Depending upon the storm and the window of time, we may perform a partial or full treatment of all bridges, overpasses, elevated surfaces, primary and/or secondary roads.

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. 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 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 648 “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 VDOT cannot address with road-clearing priorities, crews are asked to be mindful, especially near schools. There is often limited room to pile snow from roads 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 forecasts closely
  • Park in driveways or on the odd-numbered side of the street to allow plows room to pass
  • Adjust commutes, telework, and avoid driving if possible
  • Ensure enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tires, food, water and medicine
  • Give plows room to work
  • Please be patient

How can you stay informed?


Lane miles to clear

Total: 14,198
Interstate: 802
Primary: 1,687
Secondary: 11,634
» We plow an additional 4,000 miles of turn lanes and ramps
» Our secondary road system contains 17,246 subdivision streets


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

Materials at start of season

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


» 18 area headquarters
» 24 salt domes
» The Megadome 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: 72+ hours

Page last modified: March 25, 2023