Snow Emergency Policies, Procedures, and Tips

A snow emergency may be declared whenever four or more inches of snow are predicted. City officials closely monitor storm forecasts through various means and will use all available information to make an informed decision as swiftly as possible. Once a snow emergency has been declared, residents will be notified via multiple lines of communication as outlined below.


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  • Parking Regulations

  • Shoveling Rules for Property Owners

  • Sign Up for Alerts

  • General Snow Emergency Information

  • Extreme Cold Safety & Tips

Note about "space savers": Somerville has a zero-tolerance policy toward claiming spots by placing signs or objects in them. After snowstorms, you may see City crews driving around in trucks confiscating such objects. If you see a parking spot that someone has tried to “claim,” call 311 to report it.


DURING a Snow Emergency

Because winter starts in an odd year this year (2017), when a snow emergency is in effect, parking is allowed on the odd-numbered side of the street ONLY, unless the street has posted signage that states otherwise. Vehicles parked on the even-numbered side of the street must either be moved to the odd side or to another location. Due to parking limitations in the city, municipal and school lots will be made available to residents during snow emergencies. The City maintains a list and map of available lots. Vehicles MUST be moved from the even side within four hours after the snow emergency has been declared, or they will be ticketed and towed in accordance with the City Code of Ordinances.

Parking meters and timed parking limits are not enforced during snow emergencies. As long as there is no posted sign stating otherwise, and as long as the spot is on the odd-numbered side of the road, you may park your vehicle there during the snow emergency.

It is important that vehicles be parked only on one side of the street as noted above to ensure plows can make all roads accessible and safe, particularly for emergency vehicles. Ticketing AND towing of vehicles parked on the even-numbered side of the road (or as otherwise posted) will commence four hours after the snow emergency is declared. Parking-related fines during snow emergencies include:

  • Failure to Move Car to Proper Side of Street: $100
  • Tow Zone / Obstructing Plow: $100 (imposed by towing company)
  • Parked within 10 feet of Fire Hydrant/Designated Fire Lane: $100
  • Parked within 20 feet of an Intersection (state law): $100

If your vehicle is towed during a snow emergency, you should contact Pat’s Towing at 617-776-5810.

Off-Street Parking: Municipal and school parking lots are available to residents during snow emergencies.

Parking on a limited number of streets will not alternate during snow emergencies. For an explanation of why some streets have posted exceptions to the general rule, click here.

 

AFTER a Snow Emergency

Cars parked in City or school lots must be moved within two hours after the end of the emergency. Permit parking enforcement citywide resumes 24 hours after the snow emergency has been lifted. It is the responsibility of residents to clean off their vehicles and ensure the vehicle’s Residential or Visitor parking permit is visible within 24 hours after the end of the emergency. Parking Control Officers are not authorized to remove snow from any vehicle. If the permit is not visible, the vehicle WILL be ticketed for a Permit Parking Violation.

City Ordinance normally restricts any vehicle from remaining in the same space on any street for a period exceeding 48 hours. This rule is not in effect DURING a snow emergency. However, 48 hours after the snow emergency has been lifted, this violation will be strictly enforced on both the odd and even sides of the street. Failure to comply will result in the ticketing and potential towing of the vehicle.

Residents may NOT put objects on the street to reserve parking spaces, per Section 12-18 of City Code of Ordinances. Objects used to save parking spaces may be collected and disposed of.

Property Owners’ Responsibilities for Clearing Sidewalks 

What to Clear: Owners of any home and/or building abutting a public way are responsible for ensuring that the sidewalk and accessible ramps in front of their property, and extending to the corner if on a corner lot, are clear of ice and snow, in accordance with Section 12-8 of the City Code of Ordinances. For properties abutting sidewalks with curb cuts, ramps, or other access points, property owners are responsible for shoveling proper pathways for access.

How to Clear Sidewalks: Per state ADA requirements and City ordinance, sidewalks must be shoveled to a minimum of 36 inches wide to allow wheelchair passage.

When to Clear Sidewalks: The time frame in which residents/property owners have to shovel before getting a ticket has changed. The new policy is that sidewalks must be cleared within 6 daylight hours after snow stops falling.

Enforcement/Ticketing: Failure to comply with this ordinance will result in fines in accordance with Section 1-11, as noted below:

  • 1st offense: $50.00
  • 2nd offense: $100.00
  • 3rd offense: $200.00

Enforcement/Clean and Lien: If sidewalks abutting private property remain uncleared after 24 daylight hours from the end of the snow emergency (or snowfall if no emergency was declared), the City will make every effort to dispatch crews or contractors to the address for snow and ice removal. This work shall be carried out in accordance with the priorities listed under “Plowing Procedures.” In order for the City to recover its costs for the clearance of such snow and ice from public sidewalks abutting private properties, additional fines will be assessed and charged via a lien placed on the property in question.

Reporting Uncleared Sidewalks: City Inspectors regularly patrol the city following each snow event, tracking properties that do not comply with City Ordinances for snow and ice removal. These properties are documented within City databases, and violations are issued. Clean-and-lien activities will also ensue according to the procedures noted above. Tip: However, if you notice any sidewalk, public access route, ramp, etc. that has not been cleared of snow and ice up to the minimum width of 36 inches, please contact 311 by calling 3-1-1, emailing [email protected], or reporting issues via Facebook (www.facebook.com/311Somerville) or Twitter (@311Somerville, @SomervilleCity). The City of Somerville maintains work orders and requests for these issues to help to track problem areas.

Do Not Shovel Snow or Ice Into the Street, Unless...: Per Section 12-9 of the City Code of Ordinances, Residents/property owners may not shovel snow or ice into public streets unless all of the following conditions are met:

  • The mean temperature for that day is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (snow should be soft),
  • It is during daylight hours,
  • Snow or ice is broken up and spread evenly.

Don't miss out on important information. Sign up to get alerts about detours and construction, major events, snow emergencies, and more. It's up to you how we stay in touch; you can choose to get City alerts via phone call, text message, or email.

Disclaimer: Database glitches resulting in your not receiving messages pertaining to parking restrictions, including snow emergencies, do not automatically qualify you for dismissal or reimbursement of tickets and/or tow fees. Please review signage on your street, pay close attention to temporary signage, and review our parking policies and snow emergency policies.

 

Snow Policies and Procedures

A snow emergency may be declared whenever four or more inches of snow are predicted. City officials closely monitor storm forecasts through various means, and will use all available information to make an informed decision as swiftly as possible. Once a snow emergency has been declared, residents will be notified via multiple lines of communication as outlined below.

Communication of a Snow Emergency

The City of Somerville’s Communications Department will notify community members in the following ways:

  • Alerts: Citywide alerts issued by phone, email, and/or text message to subscribed users. Community members are urged to subscribe to this system to receive updated information about these and other important messages from the City.
  • Cable TV: Announcements via City Cable TV (Channel 22 for Comcast customers, Channel 13 for RCN customers) and Educational TV (Channel 15).
  • Local media: Information is distributed to local and regional print, radio and TV news media for posting to their sites.
  • Social media: Postings on City social media feeds, including:
  • City website: Alerts posted to the City website homepage at www.somervillema.gov and snow page at www.somervillema.gov/snow
  • Flashing blue lights: These lights have been placed at 22 key intersections in the City. When lit, a snow emergency is in effect.
  • Call 311 if you have questions.

Off-Street Parking: Municipal and school parking lots are available to residents during snow emergencies.

Plowing Procedures

All streets will be treated with salt or sand prior to or during snowfall as appropriate. During snow emergencies, plows will push snow as close to the curb as possible in order to assure proper clearance and safety for vehicles, particularly emergency vehicles. While we do our absolute best to avoid plowing extra snow onto sidewalks and driveways in this process, sometimes it is unavoidable, particularly in a very densely populated community, and we are truly sorry for those instances where it does happen. Please know that any feedback you provide is taken very seriously and we communicate in real-time with our plow drivers and other staff to work to avoid similar situations in the future.

Streets and public walkways will be plowed or cleared in the order as follows:

  • Main roads, cross streets, bus routes
  • “Hospital hills”
  • Schools
  • Public bus stops/ramps/bridges
  • City Squares (including traffic islands)
  • Side streets
  • Public sidewalks abutting municipal property including schools
  • Bus route sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Public sidewalks abutting private properties. The City of Somerville will assume property owners’ responsibilities for sidewalks abutting private properties if owners have failed to clear their walkways after no more than 24 daylight hours following the end of a snow event.

During snow emergencies, our crews work around the clock to ensure our streets remain safe and accessible for all residents. Please note that many factors may contribute to some amounts of snow accumulating on your street before a plow can return to re-plow, particularly in storms with larger accumulations and/or with heavier snow. Requests received via social media and through 311 are tracked in real-time and communicated to the Department of Public Works. Requests are prioritized based on severity and emergencies first and foremost. However, we do our best to respond to each and every request as possible. If you would like to log a request or ask a question of our City crews, please call 311, or log onto one of our social media feeds.


City Responsibilities

The Somerville Department of Public Works and its contractors clear all 462 streets in Somerville, and they are responsible for clearing sidewalks abutting public property, walkways in municipal parks and open spaces, crosswalks, curb ramps and landings that provide access to push buttons at signalized crosswalks, and bus stops and paths to and from bus stops including crosswalks and accessible ramps throughout the City. Streets and walkways will be treated with salt or sand prior to or during snowfall as appropriate.

In larger snow events, our goal is always to plow snow as close to the curb as possible. While we do our absolute best to avoid plowing extra snow onto sidewalks and driveways in this process, sometimes it is unavoidable, particularly in a very densely populated community. Please know that any feedback you provide is taken very seriously and we communicate in real-time with our plow drivers and other staff to work to avoid similar situations in the future.

To ensure that we can plow as close to the curb as possible, City parking restrictions during snow emergencies will be strictly enforced (see “Snow Emergency Regulations”). Failure to comply with stated parking regulations will result in a $100 fine and your vehicle will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense, per Section 11-2 of the City’s Code of Ordinances. To ease parking demand, the City will make municipal and public school parking lots available to residents at no cost for the duration of a snow emergency (see Snow Emergency Regulations for restrictions and the list and map of snow emergency parking lots.)

Parking Procedures

The City implements and enforces snow emergency parking procedures aimed at enabling the safe and efficient removal of snow from its streets. To that end, during a snow emergency, parking is limited to only one side of the street.

In response to calls from the community to more equitably distribute the potential hardships of snow and ice removal from plowing operations, the City of Somerville instituted an annually alternating parking policy for snow emergencies beginning in calendar year 2015. Snow emergency parking had previously been allowed only on the odd side of the street.

The new policy states that in winter seasons that begin in an even year, there will be even-side-only parking during snow emergencies (park-even season), except where otherwise posted. In winter seasons that begin in an odd year, there will be odd-side-only parking during snow emergencies (park-odd season), except where otherwise posted. The intent of this policy is to equitably distribute the potential hardships of snow and ice removal from plowing operations.

Parking on a limited number of streets will not alternate during snow emergencies. For an explanation of why some streets have posted exceptions to the general rule, click here.

As of January 2, 2018 (Happy New Year!), the National Weather Service is predicting potentially record-setting cold temperatures in addition to the potential for up to a foot of snow with blizzard conditions later this week and into early next week. In advance of the snowstorm and in the midst of extremely cold weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, please review the following important information in preparation for this weather.

  1. Check on neighbors in need before, during, and after the storm! If you have neighbors who are elderly, have a disability, or are otherwise unable to navigate cold and winter weather, please check in and make sure that they are safe,  healthy, and have food and resources to weather the storm. In particular, be aware that over the last week as temperatures have been extremely cold, your neighbors in need may not have been able to make it outdoors and to the grocery store or to pick up necessary medications and supplies.
  2. Prepare now for a potential blizzard amid record cold. Though this storm is not currently predicted to bring more 6-7 inches of snow, blizzard conditions are expected. Of course, the forecast is always subject to change, but, in light of the extreme cold, it is best to be prepared. Make sure you have food and water to last several days. Check your heating systems, and make sure to leave the heat set to at least 60 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing. It also helps to keep faucets dripping to prevent frozen pipes. Finally, review Somerville’s snow emergency policies in advance at www.somervillema.gov/snow
  3. Prepare to shovel…safely! Be reminded that the City of Somerville requires that sidewalks abutting your property must be shoveled within 6 daylight hours of the end of any snowfall to ensure safe passage for others. This week, it is predicted that snowfall will be accompanied by extremely cold temperatures, meaning that unshoveled snow will quickly turn to ice. This will create difficult conditions, but clearing sidewalks is of the utmost importance to prevent hazards to others including our school children. So please make sure you have sufficiently warm clothing and snow clearing supplies now ahead of the storm. When shoveling, please take the following precautions into consideration:
    • Shovel in SHORT segments. Do not attempt to shovel everything all at once. Rather, remain outside only for a few minutes at a time.
    • When you are outdoors, make sure you are dressed in several layers, including hats, gloves/mittens, and warm socks and a scarf to cover your face. Please avoid leaving any skin, including your face, exposed in extreme cold.

Below are additional tips and important information to be aware of during extreme cold. If you have non-emergency questions or concerns, you can contact 311 at any time of the day or night, in any of the following ways:

  • Call 311 (617-666-3311 from outside of the city)
  • Email [email protected]
  • Visit us on Facebook: fb.com/311Somerville or fb.com/SomervilleCity
  • Tweet us @311Somerville or @SomervilleCity

If you have an emergency issue, always call 911.

Safety Tips

  • Stay dry and change clothing is it gets wet.
  • Dress in layers, and cover as much exposed skin as possible.
  • Drink warm liquids and water to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body.
  • Know where your electricity, gas, and water switches and valves are located and how to shut them off. You may need to turn off water pipes if your pipes freeze or burst. If possible, consider having a safe backup like a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater in case your heat goes out.
  • Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries. (Learn more about carbon monoxide safety here)
  • Make sure your vehicle’s gas tank is at least half full and pack an emergency kit that includes blankets and/or warm clothing.
  • Minimize time outside, even for pets.
  • Follow all safety precautions if using space heaters and DO NOT use a stove or oven as a heat source.
    • If using an extension cord for a space heater, make sure it is rated for the appliance.
    • Do not use space heaters as a primary heat source.
    • Make sure space heaters are turned off when you go to bed or leave the house.
    • Keep anything that could burn at least three feet from space heaters. Keep in mind that drying Christmas trees can pose a fire hazard and space heaters should not be used near them.
  • If your pipes freeze, remove any insulation, pour hot water over them or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, and completely open all faucets. You can also use a hairdryer, with caution, to thaw pipes. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes. If you cannot locate or resolve a frozen pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Watch for signs of cold-related health concerns like frostbite and hypothermia and call 911 immediately for any emergencies.

Important Note for Parents

As a reminder, please ensure that students come to school dressed in warm clothing such as a winter jacket, hats, gloves, and warm boots. We encourage you to talk to school administrators or your SFLC Family Liaison if you need support in getting any of these items. The safety and health of our students is our top priority and we want to ensure that students are properly dressed in the cold weather for walking to and from school and for outside recess if the weather permits.

More Information

You can also find more information at http://www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/mema/emergencies/cold/.

For information about community resources such as fuel and heating assistance, shelters, and more, view this list compiled by the Somerville Council on Aging.

Snow Removal Assistance

A green Saab is just barely visible beneath a snow drift.

Whether you need help shoveling, or you're a teen looking to make cash, the Teen Snow Shoveling Program is here to help.