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THE CITY OF DULUTH, MINNESOTA

Street Snow Removal - FAQs

Q:  How does the City prepare for the upcoming snow season?

A:  The City of Duluth starts preparing for winter in August by hauling in winter sand and mixing it with 10% salt to prevent the pile from freezing.  Early in October, a stockpile of road salt is purchased.  By the end of October, blacktop trucks are being converted back to sanding trucks for the winter season.  All trucks, graders, and other equipment are inspected to ensure a safe operation.

Q: What are the City of Duluth snow plowing priorities?

A:  Streets classified as Main Arterials will be plowed first and have been divided into Tier One and Tier Two priorities.  Main Arterials are high volume streets that connect major sections of the city and provide access for emergency, fire, police, medical services, and Duluth Transit Authority (DTA).  Residential Streets that have lower volume come next and are classified as Tier Three.  Alleys are given the lowest priority and will only be cleared once everything else has been cleared.  Please refer to the snow plowing priority MAP for a visual representation.

Q: Is there anything I can do to get plowed out faster?

A:

  • If you have a driveway or garage, it is best to park there until after plows have been through your neighborhood. It takes more time to plow around a car than to plow against the curb. If you must park on the street, park legally and remind your neighbors to do the same.
  • If possible, please park your vehicle off the street when it is snowing.
  • Avoid parking in a location that has not been plowed.
  • On trash pick-up days, please place your trash and recycling containers at the end of your driveway or in the boulevard.  Make sure garbage and recycling carts are at least 2 feet from the roadway.  Do NOT place garbage containers on the sidewalk or in the street.

Q: Where should I park during and after a snow event?

A:  You can park on the street IF you follow parking regulations. One of the biggest problems plow operators have is trying to plow streets with illegally parked cars. Parking on the wrong side of the street in a calendar parking area, parking too close to intersections, parking too far away from the curb, and parking in the alley right-of-way are common violations that prevent streets and alleys from being properly plowed. If streets become difficult to plow due to a number of vehicles parked on the street, they will be ticketed and towed if the plows can’t get through.

Q: I have a medical condition and am concerned that emergency personnel will not be able to get through if I need them.  Can you plow my street in case there is an emergency and an ambulance needs to get through?

A: Life safety is our top priority!  The Public Works Department works with Gold Cross Ambulance and the Duluth Police and Fire Departments to make sure that these public safety agencies can provide emergency services during winter weather events.  Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should call 911.  Dispatchers will make sure a plow is available to clear the way for fire and ambulance crews.  Life safety calls take priority and crews will be dispatched immediately in the event of an emergency.

Q: Can you tell me exactly when my street will be plowed?

A: It is impossible to put an exact time on when specific areas will be plowed.  However, the city strives to:

- Have all Priority 1 and 2 streets (Arterials) open to traffic (two lanes) within 36 hours after the snowfall subsides. 

- Have all remaining public streets (Residential) shall be open to traffic (one lane) within 48 hours after the snowfall subsides.

- Have all public alleys (not private) opened and made passable within 56 hours after the snowfall subsides.


Weather conditions such as blowing or drifting snow or other weather events make exact predictions difficult.  Additionally, while there is a schedule for snowplowing, plows are able to remove a 3” snowfall much more quickly than a 12” snowfall, for example.  We appreciate your patience as crews work to clear streets as quickly as possible. 

Refer to the snow plowing priority MAP to see street priority classifications.

Q: How does the City determine when the snowfall has ended?

A: Snowfall is deemed to have ended when measurable snow stops falling.  This is sometimes difficult to determine when multiple snow events follow each other in a short timeframe.  The best advice:  clear sidewalks whenever snowfall lets up so there is less accumulation to clear when the snow ends.

Q: Why can’t you plow my street now?

A: Streets within the City are prioritized to clear major travel routes first.  This allows public safety vehicles access to most parts of the City.  The initial plowing activities also provide most residents a cleared roadway within two-to-three blocks of their home and most destinations in the City.  Other factors include locations of schools, hospitals, major commercial centers, and other facilities with large public interest.

Q: What can I do about snow plows that block my driveway with snow?

A: This is an unfortunate side effect of plowing all streets in the City.  All snow must be plowed to the curb and as a result, driveways get blocked with the wet, heavy snow from the plow.  It is the property owner’s responsibility to clear the snow from the bottom of the driveway.

Q: Can I push snow from my driveway or parking lot onto the street, sidewalk or other public area?

A:  No.  City ordinance prohibits depositing, placing or throwing of snow upon any public sidewalks, ways or other public grounds for the purpose of removing such snow or accumulation from any lot, tract, or parcel of Placing snow onto a public roadway or sidewalk could create a safety hazard for which the property owner may be liable in the event of an accident.

Q: Can’t the plow please lift its blade at driveway entrances or angle its blade the opposite way since there are fewer homes on the other side of the street?

A:  City of Duluth plow operators do the best they can to avoid placing excess snow on property owners’ driveways and sidewalks.  However, it is simply infeasible to move snow in such a way that avoids leaving windrows at driveway entrances.  Requiring plow drivers to operate with that level of intricacy would be wasteful as well as far too time-consuming and costly.

To reduce the amount of snow the plow puts in your driveway, clear the snow from the boulevard area on the side of your driveway where the plow comes from.  If this area is covered with compacted snow, your driveway will be the first opening where the plow can release its snow.  However, if this area is cleared, the plow can release much of its snow before it gets to your driveway.

Q:  Why does the City wait so long to begin plowing after a snow event?

A:  The City plows snow throughout every snow event.  As long as the snow is accumulating on the streets, the City’s plowing equipment is concentrating on keeping the arterial and collector streets passable. This is critically important to make sure emergency vehicles like fire trucks, police vehicles and ambulances can get where they need to go.  Once the snow stops and these streets are cleared, the plows focus on residential streets and then alleys. If we get a 2-3 day continuous snow event, residential streets will not be plowed during that time.  We understand this is a very difficult scenario for all Duluthians and make every effort to clear all areas as quickly as possible with the resources available.

Q:  Why are they plowing “X” street again when mine has not been plowed yet?” 

A:  The main reason for this is because emergency routes/mains must remain clear throughout the duration of a snow event.  For this reason, crews typically don’t move to non-priority routes until after the snow has subsided.

It other cases, while it may seem like crews are plowing some streets more often than others, this is not necessarily the case.  There are several different “routes” throughout the City and while trucks travel those routes several times per snow event, they are not necessarily plowing each time.  For example, it is not uncommon for a truck to travel between the sand pile and their route several times to reload. 

Additionally, each route is split by a “main” and because residential routes usually begin at a main, roads on one side of the street may appear to be plowed more than others depending on where the main is located on a route.  With some neighborhoods at the beginning of a plow route and others at the end, it may be that the neighbor across from you is plowed before you because they are at the beginning of one route while you are at the end of another.

The City establishes routes to make the most effective and efficient use of available resources. If snow continues, crews will travel and plow main arterials several times to keep them open for travel to and from neighborhoods.

Q: Why do you sometimes salt instead of plow or plow instead of salt?

A: The City uses 22 plow trucks and 22 road graders for plowing snow. The road graders don’t have the ability to spread salt and sand as they plow. The plow trucks must move back and forth from their assigned plow routes to treat the roads with salt and/or sand where the graders have plowed. While the snow is still falling, very little salt is used because we know we will have to plow the same roads again. Once the snow has stopped, plow trucks will treat the roads with a mix of these materials.

Q: Who do I contact if a snow plow has damaged my mailbox or other personal property?

A: The city claims adjuster, Don Douglas, handles all property damage claims. Call (218) 730-5276 or email ddouglas@duluthmn.gov.  Please keep in mind that the City is not liable for damage to personal property within the public right-of-way.  When you are landscaping or placing items (trees, benches, railings, etc.) in your yard, make sure those items are outside the public right-of-way.  For questions about the right-of-way along your property, contact the engineering department at (218) 730-5200.

Q:  Who do I contact if a snow plow has damaged my vehicle?

A:  We suggest you contact the police department to file a report.  The non-emergency phone number for Duluth Police is (218) 730-5400.  (Remember to call 911 if there are injuries or it is an emergency situation.)  Depending on the damage, you can also follow-up with the city claims adjuster, Don Douglas at 218-730-5276 or email ddouglas@duluthmn.gov

[  CONTACT  ]

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Winter Hazard Awareness

Snow Removal Districts

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