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Snow & Ice Control Policy


The primary purpose of snow/ice control is to provide for the safety and mobility of the public during periods of heavy snowfall, snow accumulation and icy conditions. Planned levels of service and existing capabilities of the City must be carefully correlated with computed costs of operations and the benefits expected to be achieved. It is the responsibility of the Maintenance Operations Division to provide a level of snow and ice control consistent with the City of Duluth’s approved level of service funding.

The City of Duluth’s Snow and Ice Control policy provides for the planned and orderly control of snow/ice on city-maintained streets, alleys, walks, and parking lots/ramps during periods of inclement weather. Operations are performed and coordinated by the Street Maintenance Work Group, teamed with Park & Traffic Maintenance Work Groups, and other city staff. A planned, coordinated approach is essential to ensure effective and efficient response to snow and ice conditions.  Unplanned, reactive responses to localized conditions conflict with and inhibit an effective approach to citywide snow/ice events.

This policy is also a summary of procedures and policies of the City as they relate to snow and ice control operations. The Snow and Ice Control Policy is reviewed and updated annually.

Snow control and handling is a hazardous, tiring, and stressful job, which may not be fully understood by the public. Operations are performed more often at night and often require crews to work arduous hours, on weekends, and holidays.

We thank those individuals who through their dedication and best effort assist the City of Duluth by carrying out the details of this policy.


Together, we are all responsible for keeping Duluth safe for winter travel.  The City assumes basic responsibility for control of snow and ice on city-maintained streets, alleys, walks, and parking lots/ramps, while property owners are responsible for private streets, parking lots/ramps, alleys, and sidewalks abutting their property. Reasonable ice and snow control is necessary so that citizens can use the above maintained transportation pathways as normally as possible under all but the most extreme weather conditions for routine travel and emergency services. The City will provide such control in as safe and cost effective manner as practical, keeping in mind safety, budget, personnel and environmental concerns. The City will use a combination of city employees, equipment, and private contractors to provide this service.

This policy will be enforced equally throughout the City.


The Maintenance Operations Manager or designee(s) will decide when to begin snow and/or ice control operations. The criteria for that decision will include:

  • Reasonable threat of inclement weather predicted to occur within 24 hours;
  • Storm conditions that warrant pre-treatment with salt or brine solution’
  • Snow accumulation or as road conditions warrant;
  • Drifting of snow;
  • Icy conditions;
  • Time of snowfall.


The City may use salt, salt brine, sand or a mixture thereof when there is hazardous ice or other conditions that warrant their use. Application will follow the same priorities followed for snow and ice control set forth in the “Snow and Ice Control Priorities” section. The City is concerned about the effect of such chemicals on the environment and will limit their use for that reason. Application of sand/salt will be limited on lower volume streets. The Maintenance Operations Manager or designee(s) shall determine when conditions warrant the application of sand and/or salt, and what mixture is appropriate for the conditions.


Snow removal operations shall be performed on streets, alleys, walks, and parking lots/ramps maintained by the City.  Snow removal priority and scheduling shall be based on needs and conditions, and shall be determined by the Street Maintenance Supervisor or designee(s).


Snow will be plowed in a manner so as to minimize traffic obstructions. The center of the roadway will be plowed first. The discharge shall go onto the boulevard area of the street and minimize or reduce snow stack upon walkways, where practical.


Snow and ice control operations will be conducted only when weather conditions do not endanger the safety of city employees and equipment. Factors that may delay snow and ice control operations include severe cold, significant winds, and limited visibility.

Generally, operations shall continue until all roads are passable. Widening and clean-up operations may continue immediately or on the following work day depending upon conditions and circumstances. Safety of the plow operators and the public is essential. Therefore, snow plowing/removal operations may be suspended temporarily to allow personnel adequate time for rest. There may be instances when this is not possible depending on storm conditions and other circumstances. Operations may also be suspended during periods of limited visibility. Any decision to suspend operations shall be made by the Maintenance Operations Manager or designee(s) and shall be based on the conditions of the storm. The City will still provide access for emergency fire, police, and medical services during a major snow or ice storm.


The City streets are classified based on street function, traffic volume, and importance to the welfare of the community.


Streets within the City are prioritized to clear major travel routes first.  This allows public safety vehicles access to most parts of the City.

  1. Main Arterials (Priority 1):  High-volume streets that must be clear to provide access for emergency, fire, police, medical services and the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA).
  2. Secondary Arterials (Priority 2):  All other streets that connect major sections of the city.
  3. Residential Streets (Priority 3): Third priority streets are lower volume residential streets.
  4. Alleys (Priority 4):  Alleys are considered the lowest priority and will be plowed once arterials and residential streets have been cleared.


There are a limited number of walkways, paths and sidewalks that are cleared by City staff.  These will have snow removed as quickly as possible given manpower and equipment availability.  Please refer to the sidewalk priority MAP to see identified priority areas.  Priorities for city sidewalk clearing start with safe-routes-to-school sidewalks followed by high pedestrian traffic areas, sidewalks along public transit routes, mid-level pedestrian traffic areas, and finally, park facilities.  All other sidewalks are to be cleared by property owners.


The following are minimum levels of service which can be anticipated. The City will attempt to achieve better results where possible.


  1. Snow removal and/or sanding operations shall begin when snow accumulation or icing occurs on Priority 1 and Priority 2 streets, and shall continue periodically throughout the duration of the snowfall. It is the intention of the City to keep these routes open to traffic during a storm; however, it may not be possible to keep them snow or ice free. (see MAP)
  2. All priority 1 and priority 2 streets shall be open to traffic (two lanes) within 36 hours after the snowfall subsides.
  3. All remaining public streets shall be open to traffic (one lane) within 48 hours after the snowfall subsides.
  4. All public alleys shall be opened and made passable within 56 hours after the snowfall subsides.


  1. As manpower and equipment are available from priority street operations.
  2. As quickly as possible with priority to school routes, governmental buildings, emergency service providers, and business districts. Should a subsequent snowfall occur within the minimum times of service listed, that snowfall shall become the snowfall referred to in this policy.


  • Vehicles disabled in deep snow
  • Weather so severe as to cause crews to be called in from the street, i.e., whiteout conditions
  • Equipment rendered inadequate by the depths of the snow or drifts Re-fueling, refilling material spreaders, installing new plow cutting edges, and routine maintenance
  • Illegally parked, parked, or stalled vehicles that restrict or prevent access; those streets, walks and pathways will be assigned to lower priority, as available
  • Unforeseen emergencies
  • Equipment breakdown


The Street Maintenance Work Group shall maintain a snow and ice control procedures manual.



Inform City Staff about an issue or concern related to snow operations.

Submit Online Square Winter Watch Hotline


Winter Hazard Awareness

Snow Removal Districts

City of Duluth, 411 West First Street, Duluth, Minnesota 55802
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