Snow Emergency

Snow & Ice Control Policy


The City of Duluth’s Snow and Ice Control policy provides for the planned and orderly control of snow/ice on city-maintained streets and alleys, during periods of inclement weather. Operations are primarily 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. The City will also attempt to provide snow and ice control in the safest and cost effective manner as practical, keeping in mind safety, budgetary constraints, personnel and environmental concerns. Together, we are all responsible for keeping Duluth safe for winter travel, please slow down and give yourself more time.

Decision to Begin Operations

Snow and Ice control is a hazardous, tiring, and stressful job, the decision to begin operations are not taken lightly or without consideration of many factors. The Street Maintenance Manager or designee(s) will decide when to begin snow and/or ice control operations. Most snow and ice control operations are performed at night or early in the morning and often require crews to work arduous hours, including weekends, and holidays. When snow does falls on a weekend or a holiday and is not considered  a major threat to public safety, Main arterial streets (priority 1) will be plowed and sanded only. Priority 2-3 streets will be plowed and sanded the next normally scheduled work day. The criteria for snow and ice operations to begin decision will include but not limited to:

  • 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

Use of Salt and Sand

The City may use de-icing chemicals and washed sand when hazardous winter driving conditions are present or forecasted. We attempt to strike a balance between environmental consciousness, safety and mobility of the public and the monetary costs associated with the use of de-icing chemicals.  Knowing the long term environmental impacts that de-icing chemicals can cause, we limit our usage wherever and whenever we can. Operators go through a yearly training to make ensure all employees do not take this application process lightly. To help further reduce our overall usage of de-icing chemicals, early fall and late spring snowfalls may be left on roadways if melting is determined to be eminent or if substantial damage will be caused by plows to the pavement structure or yards and boulevards. When de-icing is required we attempt to treat the street surface in such quantities as to provide a level of skid resistance with standards normally experienced on city streets throughout the State of Minnesota. During de-icing operations, we use the same priority tables as snow plowing in regards to which areas are treated first.

Snow Removal

Snow removal operations shall be performed on streets, alleys and sidewalks maintained by the City.  Snow removal priority shall be determined by the Street Maintenance Manager or designee(s) and always fall in lower priority to snow and ice control measures.

Method of Snow Plowing

Snow will be plowed in a manner so as to promote safety while minimizing 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.

Weather Conditions/Suspension of Operations/Limited Staff

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 impedes snow operations.

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 due to periods of very low to limited visibility. In instances where hazardous conditions persist over  multiple shifts, the Street Maintenance Manager (or their designee)  will suspend operations to allow personnel adequate time for rest. **During these instances when there is limited staff we will concentrate only on a limited number of Main Arterials and prioritize emergency routes.  The exact names of these streets and avenues will be directly dependent on current weather and traffic conditions as well as on-call staff. ** Any decision to suspend operations shall be made by the Street Maintenance 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. DEFINED BELOW

Snow and Ice Control Priorities

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 with higher probability of accidents and must be clear to provide access for emergency, fire, police, medical services and the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA).

**Main Arterials with steep inclines in and out of the downtown districts will have priority when there is limited staffing or severe snow/ice to the point where our staff cannot keep up with the storm. **

  1. Residential Streets (Priority 2): Streets that are lower volume
  2. Alleys (Priority 3):  Alleys are considered the lowest priority and will be plowed once Main arterials and residential streets have been cleared.

Minimum Levels of Service

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 streets, and shall continue periodically throughout the duration of the snowfall. It is the intent of the City to attempt to keep these routes open to traffic during a storm; however, it may not be possible to keep them snow or ice free. Motorists are asked to be patient and slow down. 
  2. All priority 1 streets shall be open to traffic (two lanes) within 36 hours after the snowfall subsides.
  3. All Priority 2 streets shall be open to traffic (one lane) within 48 hours after the snowfall subsides.
  4. All Priority 3 public alleys shall be opened and made passable within 56 hours after the snowfall subsides.

Conditions Which May Impact Goals Stated Within 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 or icy conditions
  • Equipment rendered inadequate by the depths of the snow, drifts or ice conditions, 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