What to Expect

County Emergency Priorities
When a winter storm occurs, snow emergency routes and primary roadways will be treated first, followed by secondary streets and finally, residential streets, including dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs. In a snow emergency, during Phase 1 of plowing operations, all streets are plowed to passable condition. This consists of two plowed lanes on primary roadways and one plowed lane on secondary and residential streets. In a snow emergency, Phase 2 of plowing operations goes into effect once all roadways are passable. This consists of plowing to provide bare pavement and wider travel lanes, as well as any additional treatment of salt or sand as required.

Take Action
Working together, County residents can play an important role in helping the Department of Public Works and Transportation provide more effective snow removal to all of our communities. The following actions will benefit all of us during snow emergencies:
  • Don't drive except when absolutely necessary.
  • Don't park on snow emergency routes.
  • Park only on even-numbered sides of residential streets or in driveways.
  • In big storms, understand that our Phase 1 plowing operation is intended to provide passable conditions only. This permits us to provide all communities with a passable way out as early as possible. If necessary, we then return during Phase 2 to clear most of the traveled way.
  • If possible shovel driveways after the road has been plowed to avoid having driveways blocked by snow plowing operations.
  • Wait for 12 hours after precipitation has stopped to call the Snow Information Center at 301-350-0500.
0-4 Inches
Winter Weather Advisory - Slippery roads!

Major Roads
  • Less than two inches: salting completed within 4 hours after end of storm.
  • Over two inches: continuous plowing and salting. Plowing to bare pavement completed up to 12 hours after end of storm.

Residential Streets
  • Less than two inches: salting and sanding, where needed, completed within 12 hours after end of storm.
  • Over two inches: plowing begins, as needed, up to 12 hours after end of storm. Plowing completed up to 24 hours after end of storm.
Bus And Rail Routes
  • Metrorail: Normal operations.
  • Metrobus: Normal operations.
  • Metro Access: Normal operations.
  • Metro Parking: 5 percent fewer spaces.
  • Transit Buses: Normal operations.
  • VRE and MARC: Normal operations.
4-8 Inches
Winter Storm Warning - Some Hazardous Roads!

Major Roads
  • Continuous plowing. through lanes plowed to bare pavement up to 12 hours after end of storm.
Residential Streets
  • Plowing begins up to 12 hours after storm ends. Streets passable* up to 24-38 hours after end of storm.
Bus and Rail Routes
  • Metrorail: Normal operations.
  • Metrobus: Detours around hilly areas, with delays.
  • Metro Access: Some delays.
  • Metro Parking: 10 percent fewer spaces.
  • Transit Buses: Detours around hilly areas with delays.
  • VRE and MARC: Normal operations
* Passable means that the road will be snow-packed, only one travel lane will be plowed, and all-weather tires are a must.

8-12 Inches
Winter Storm Warning - Hazardous Roads!

Major Roads
  • Continuous plowing. through lanes plowed to bare pavement up to 24 hours after end of storm.
Residential Streets
  • Plowing begins up to 24 hours after end of storm. Streets made passable* (but not cleared to bare pavement) up to 48 hours later.
Bus and Rail Routes
  • Metrorail: six-car trains, delays between trains.
  • Metrobus: service on snow routes only, major delays.
  • Metro Access: very limited service major delays.
  • Metro Parking: 25 percent fewer spaces.
  • Transit Buses: service on snow routes only, minor delays.
  • VRE and MARC: modified schedule, reduces service delays.
* Passable means that the road will be snow-packed, only one travel lane will be plowed, and all-weather tires are a must.

12-18 Inches
Winter Storm Warning or Blizzard Warning - Hazardous Roads!

Major Roads
  • Through lanes plowed to bare pavement up to 25-36 hours after storm ends. Expect narrowed and/or blocked lanes due to accumulations.
Residential Streets
  • Plowing begins up to 36-48 hours after storm ends. One lane will be made passable* 2-3 days later. Expect snow-packed roads.
Bus and Rail Routes
  • Metrorail: six-car trains only major delays between trains.
  • Metrobus: limited service on snow routes.
  • Metro Access: very limited service major delays.
  • Metro Parking: 40 percent fewer spaces.
  • Transit Buses: service on snow routes only, major delays.
  • VRE and MARC: modified schedule reduces service, delays.
* Passable means that the road will be snow-packed, only one travel lane will be plowed, and all-weather tires are a must.

Over 18 Inches
Blizzard Warning - Treacherous roads!

Major Roads
  • through lanes plowed to bare pavement up to 36-48 hours after storm ends. Narrowed and/or blocked lanes due to heavy accumulations.
Residential Streets
  • Plowing begins 48 hours after storm ends. One lane will be made passable* 2- days later. Some roads might be impassable for longer periods. Expect snow-packed roads.
Bus and Rail Routes
  • TheBus: limited service on snow routes.
  • Metrorail: Limited service above-ground. If only underground service, it is limited to:
    • Red (Grosvenor to Union Station),
    • Blue (Rosslyn to Stadium Armory),
    • Orange (Ballston to Plaza to Mt. Vernon Square/ UDC), and
    • Green (U Street to Anacostia).
  • Metrobus: Limited service on snow routes only; major delays.
  • Metro Access: Very limited service.
  • Metro Parking: 60 percent fewer spaces.
  • VRE and MARC: modified schedule, reduced service, delays.
* Passable means that the road will be snow-packed, only one travel lane will be plowed, and all-weather tires are a must.

Freezing Rain or Ice
Winter Weather Advisory for Freezing Rain or Ice - Very Treacherous Roads!

Major Roads
  • Continuous salting and/or sanding until road conditions improve, bridges, ramps, underpasses freeze first. Possible traffic signal outages and tree limbs roadway.
Residential Streets
  • Sanding and/or salting begins up to 24 hours after storm ends as needed. Possible traffic signal outages and tree limbs in roadway.
Bus And Rail Routes
  • Metrorail: Expect delays at above ground stations.
  • Metrobus And Metro Access: Normal service depends on severity of road conditions.
  • Metro Parking: 5 percent fewer spaces.
  • Transit Buses: Normal service depends on severity of road conditions.
  • VRE and MARC: Normal operations.