Winter in the Midwest can be unpredictable, and sometimes brutal. The city of St. Joseph is dedicated to providing the most efficient and effective service possible to keep our travelling public safe and mobile. The weather is constantly monitored, even during the spring and summer months, as it plays an important role in street maintenance. The department has an operational plan in place which is implemented when the community is hit with a weather event.
Crews receive training every fall in preparation for winter weather. Operators must pass a driving test, consisting of an obstacle course with a plow-mounted truck. Operators are also trained on department policy and procedures. During winter months, crews mount salt spreaders and install tire chains on their vehicles every evening at the end of their shift. They are removed at the start of the next day unless a storm is approaching.
During a weather event, crews work two 12-hour shifts, with the shift change at 8am and 8pm. Supervisors start an hour earlier to allow for planning. A sidewalk crew, which also works a 12-hour shift, starts at 3am. Crews will stay on 12-hour shifts until all streets have been cleared.
Storm operations are controlled from the Storm Room which is continuously manned by a supervisor and remains operational until the weather event is over and clean-up is complete.
Emergency Snow Ordinance
The city's Emergency Snow Ordinance (ESO) will be implemented when conditions warrant. Phase I is declared during the first snowfall and stays in effect through the end of winter. All season / snow tires, or chains, are required on your vehicle. If you do not have snow tires or chains and you become stalled on any street, you could be ticketed. Phase II is declared when 2+ inches of snow has fallen and / or a significant amount is expected. Upon declaration of Phase II, all vehicles parked on Emergency Snow Routes must be removed within two hours or be subject to ticketing and towing. The removal of all vehicles from emergency routes allows street crews to efficiently and effectively conduct plowing operations. Notification of Phase II will be announced through local media, by the Communications Center on local cable channels, and on the city's website and via social media.
A snow alert will be declared if an extremely heavy snow blankets the city. If an alert is declared, street crews will plow all eight districts after emergency and secondary routes have been plowed and the snow stops falling. Every effort will be made to notify citizens of the approximate time their district will be plowed. To expedite plowing operations, the city will request that all cars be removed from streets. If not possible, at least restrict parking to one side of the street in your neighborhood. Since the city's first priority is to clear emergency routes, there will be a delay in reaching residential streets. The snow will be deep and crews will need to get the snow to the curb. Having all vehicles removed from streets wherever possible will expedite the operations.
When plowing operations begin, a larger crew is used and trucks are paired together. On some emergency routes, three plows are used to clear snow. Emergency Snow Routes are plowed first; crews will stay on emergency routes until all snow has stopped falling and the snow has been pushed to the curbs. All routes, including secondary and district, are de-iced as they are plowed, saving time and making the snow easier to plow by preventing the snow from packing to the pavement. Phase II is lifted from Emergency Snow Routes as soon as they are checked and released by a supervisor.
As emergency routes are completed, secondary routes are begun. The secondary route system is designed to get all residents within two to three blocks of a plowed street. As secondary routes are completed, district routes are plowed. District routes include dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs. Once district routes are completed, the plowing operation is complete.
During a lengthy snow or ice event, it may be necessary for crews to return to emergency routes to plow again or re-salt streets. A two-man crew will remain available to respond to resident calls as needed.
Street crews will de-ice streets in the same order as plowing when there is freezing precipitation. The de-icing will continue until all streets have been satisfactorily completed.
The street division will assist an ambulance in getting to an emergency call and to the hospital when requested by the ambulance dispatcher. Snow removal and ice control crews are on the streets during storms to aid motorists in their travels. All of the city's winter weather vehicles are equipped with amber warning lights to identify them.
Please use caution
When you encounter snow removal or de-icing vehicles, please yield the right of way if you can do so safely. Please keep back at least 50 feet from vehicles and do not pass them. Snow removal trucks throw salt from the rear of the spreader box, which can damage your vehicle's paint if too close. Please do not drive in the plowed windrows of snow, as doing so could cause to you lose control of your vehicle and result in an accident. Remember, crews are working as diligently as possible to aid you in your travels.