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Snow Emergency Policies, Procedures, and Tips

During winter storms, the City of Somerville may declare a snow emergency. Snow emergencies can be declared when forecasts are calling for four or more inches of winter snow. There are several steps residents need to take to increase safety and assist the City in rapidly removing snow. These include different parking rules during a snow emergency and rules about removing snow from sidewalks near your home or business. 

The City prohibits the use of “space savers,” or objects put 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. 

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Once a snow emergency is declared, the City will send alerts to residents through multiple communication channels, including: 


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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.





The city prohibits the use of “space savers,” or objects put 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. 

During a Snow Emergency: 

When winter begins in an even-numbered year – like the winter of 2022-23, parking will only be allowed on the even-numbered side of streets during a snow emergency. 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

You have four hours after a snow emergency is declared to move your car to the even-numbered side of the street, or to municipal lots (map) available for resident use during a snow emergency. Parking is not allowed in school lots during snow emergencies. 

You can also park at meters on the even-numbered side of a street during a snow emergency, as long there is no sign stating otherwise. Meters and time-parking rules are not enforced during snow emergencies. The City does not enforce an ordinance prohibiting cars from being parked in the same spot for more than 48 hours. 

Your vehicle will be ticketed and towed if you do not follow the above Snow Emergency parking rules. Fines include: 

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

The towing charge is $108, along with a $35 per day storage fee. Call Pat’s Towing at 617-776-5810 if your car gets towed. 

After a Snow Emergency: 

  • You need to move your car from municipal lots within two hours after the snow emergency ends.  
  • The Parking Department will begin enforcing permit parking rules within 24 hours after a snow emergency ends. 
  • The Parking Department will begin enforcing the rule prohibiting cars to remain in the same spot for more than 48 hours within 48 hours after a snow emergency ends. 
  • You must shovel your car out within 48 hours after a snow emergency ends. Visit the Snow Shoveling Assistance Program page if you need help shoveling. 

The City prohibits the use of “space savers,” or objects put 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. 


Shoveling Rules


You are responsible for removing ice and snow from sidewalks and accessible ramps if you own property that abuts a public way. Sidewalks need to be cleared within six daylight hours after the snow stops. 

To comply with all city rules: 

  • Shovel a path at least 36 inches wide on sidewalks to comply with City rules and the Americans With Disabilities Act. 
  • Do not shovel snow onto city streets unless the mean temperature is 40 degrees or above, it is during daylight hours and snow and ice is broken up and spread evenly on the street. 
  • These rules apply to all snow accumulation, not just when a snow emergency is declared. 

Fines for not complying with the above rules are $100 for a first offense for owners of one- two- and three-unit houses, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for all subsequent offenses. Fines for commercial property or residential buildings with more than four units are $150 for a first offense and $300 for all subsequent offenses. 

City crews will clear sidewalks in front of private properties beginning 24 hours after the snow stops falling. Snow removal will be prioritized following the guidelines under “Plowing Procedures.” 

The City will impose additional fines and place liens on properties where the cCity has to clear the sidewalks. 

Report un-shoveled sidewalks by calling 3-1-1, emailing, or reporting issues via Facebook ( or Twitter (@311Somerville, @SomervilleCity). 




The Somerville Public Works Department and its contractors clear all 462 streets in the city, as well as sidewalks abutting public property, walkaways in parks and open spaces, crosswalks, curb cuts and intersection pedestrian landings. Plow drivers do their best to avoid pushing snow into driveways and onto sidewalks, but doing so is often unavoidable -- especially in more densely-populated areas. 

Snow removal is prioritized a follow to ensure the fastest snow removal: 

  • Streets 
  • Municipal and school parking lots and access routes 
  • Public bus stops (281 stops, divided into 4 Routes), ramps, and bridges 
  • City squares including traffic islands 
  • Public sidewalks abutting municipal property including schools 
  • Public sidewalks and crosswalks abutting bus stops 
  • Public sidewalks abutting private properties. 
    • If sidewalks abutting private property remain un-cleared after 24 daylight hours from the end of the snow emergency (or accumulation of snowfall if no emergency was declared), the City may dispatch crews or contractors to the address for snow and ice removal. Additional fines may be assessed and charged via a lien placed on the property in question. 
  • State property 

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.  

Snow-removal 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. 


Stay Safe

Read Our Extreme Cold Safety Tips





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