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Snow removal

Snow Emergency Hotline: 952-563-8768

There's no getting around it: Winter and snow go hand-in-hand. The City helps people get through it, literally, with snow plowing services.

DANGER: Don't let kids tunnel in snow banks!

With the extremely high amounts of snow we have received, snow removal operations on City streets and cul-de-sacs have generated some very large piles and banks of snow.

For their safety, children should be instructed to NOT play on these banks or make tunnels in them.

During the next few days and weeks, the City will be pushing back these banks with large equipment in an effort to provide storage area for future snowfalls.

Fire hydrant surrounded by snow

Adopt a fire hydrant: Keep it clear of snow

Do a good deed for your community– clear snow away from fire hydrants. This provides quick access for firefighters and water maintenance workers in case of an emergency.

Owners of private hydrants are responsible for and encouraged to clear the snow away from their hydrants, to aid in their location if an emergency were to arise requiring immediate access to them.

Who is responsible for snow removal?

Snow removal is primarily the responsibility of the Street, Park and Facilities Sections in the Public Works Maintenance Division. In addition:

  • Police monitor street conditions and enforce snow-related ordinances.
  • Equipment personnel keep plows ready to operate and conduct quick repairs as necessary during a storm.
  • Utility crews augment Maintenance staff to operate equipment.
  • Residents help by complying with snow-related ordinances and reporting slippery intersections or other unsafe areas they encounter.

Snow plowing facts

Bloomington averages 40 inches of snow per year which results in 10 to 12 plowable snowfalls per year. Each full plow means clearing snow from:

  • 2,016 lane miles of road. That's the distance from here to Mazatlan, Mexico!
  • 512 cul-de-sacs.
  • 250 miles of sidewalks.
  • 33 skating rinks.
  • Every municipal building parking lot and walkway.

The average cost for these services per household is just $10.80 per year.

The strategy used to plow streets, sidewalks and other City facilities depends on the interaction of several factors:

  • Time the snow began.
  • Duration of snowfall.
  • Type of snow - light/dry or wet/heavy.
  • Temperature before and after snowfall.
  • High winds - drifting.
  • Snow accumulation.
  • Available equipment - breakdowns.
  • Available staff.


To make roads safer before snow falls, the City pre-treats streets with an anti-icing brine solution. The brine solution, a liquid mixture of salt and water that is sprayed on, prevents ice from bonding with street surfaces. Once the liquid solution is sprayed, it evaporates and leaves behind thin lines of salt. The salt prevents the bonding of snow and ice to the street so snowplows can scrape the street clean. This process reduces the amount of salt that needs to be applied when streets are plowed. The anti-icing process leaves several stripes of salt behind, making roads that have recently been de-iced easily identifiable.

Sidewalk plowing

Park Maintenance is responsible for snow removal on over 250 miles of sidewalks throughout the city. We have five sidewalk snow removal units. Removal from a snowfall of 3-5 inches takes approximately four days to complete.

Sidewalks are sorted into three groups:

First priority – School walking areas, heavily used wheelchair accessible areas and high use areas by main roads.

Second priority – Walks expanding out from the school and along major roads.

Third priority – Residential and industrial areas.

If snow falls over a long time period, the City may repeatedly return to priority one areas before clearing lesser-used areas. Residents are asked to be patient in such situations. Crews will complete the job, but it may take two to three weeks, depending on weather conditions.

Plows need to push snow off both sides of a sidewalk. In heavy snowfall, banks along walks may become too high for V-plow snow removal. In this case, snow blowers must be used extending the time for completion by at least 2-3 times. Obstacles in right-of-ways, either on or along sidewalks, i.e. timbers, boulders, shrubs or trash cans, hinder snow removal. The City appreciates your help in maintaining sidewalks and keeping right-of-ways clear of obstacles, so snow can be removed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A typical snow emergency

The night before

The National Weather Service forecasts the possibility of one to five inches of snow the following day. The City of Bloomington's Maintenance and Equipment Divisions check and prepare snow removal equipment and materials.

Snowfall begins on the next day at 1 p.m. Maintenance personnel from the Street Section monitor and sand streets as needed. By 3 p.m., the snow is falling heavily and one and one-half inches has accumulated. Twenty-six Street employees have been plowing and sanding priority streets. It continues to snow after 3:30 p.m., when the regular workday has ended. Twelve operators remain to plow and sand priority streets.

At 6 p.m., the National Weather Service and local media announce that snow in excess of three inches has fallen. The City Snow Emergency Parking Ban automatically goes into effect and the City Snow Hotline is updated. Snow continues to fall until 10 p.m.; a total of four inches has accumulated. All priority streets have been plowed and sanded through rush hour.

The Police Department is advised that the remaining Street personnel will be leaving and an "all-personnel callout" will occur at 3 a.m. Police enforce the parking ban in a snow emergency which states that no parking is allowed on any city street for 48 hours, or until the street is plowed to its full width.

Early morning all-personnel callout

3 a.m. – All personnel call-out occurs. Maintenance personnel from Street (26 people), Park (20), Facilities (6) and Utilities (6) Sections begin plowing priority streets, municipal parking lots and cul-de-sacs.

5:30 a.m. – Priority areas are cleared. Plowing begins on other streets, and continues on cul-de-sacs.

6 a.m. – Additional Park Maintenance employees (6) begin removing snow from priority sidewalks, typically located along County roads and City priority streets.

6:30 a.m. – Additional Facilities Maintenance employees (6) begin removal from City parking lots and walkways.

7 a.m. – Support staff forwards phone messages to employees, and provides information to the public. The Snow Emergency Hotline is updated. The Equipment Division repairs equipment throughout the operation, and for several days after completion.

3 p.m. – All City streets and cul-de-sacs have been plowed their full width and sanded. The same is true for City buildings and parking lots. Maintenance staff not involved with sidewalk plowing are released.

3:30 p.m. – Sidewalk plowing crew ends workday. Some first priority sidewalks have had snow redeposited on them by County or City street clearing operations.

Back to the usual routine

Twenty-four hours after the snow began to accumulate, the streets and city lots are plowed. Street Maintenance plows where "snowbird" vehicles violating the parking ban have been tagged by Police and towed. Crews re-sand locations that have become slippery due to traffic. Park Maintenance is plowing sidewalks, and will continue for three days. Crews continue to clear skating rinks. Other Maintenance personnel return to usual duties.