City of Erie Winter Operations and Tips
The City of Erie Department of Public Works is on a mission to help our residents get where they need to go. The reality, however, is that in Erie, Pennsylvania, we endure tough weather conditions throughout all four seasons, especially in winter. But we Erieites are a resilient, hearty bunch, and we don’t let the snow stop us. Unfortunately, sometimes the snow comes so heavy and so fast that strategies for clearing the roads can be a challenge to effectively and efficiently implement given constraints. The City of Erie understands winter services are vital to our residents, and we are always as prepared as we can be and are dedicated to keeping roads open and passable during every winter storm. Please use the information on these pages to learn the details of our approach to winter, how we maintain nearly 600 miles of roads and multiple bridges, and how you can help too.
City of Erie Winter Operations
During the snow removal process, all City streets are treated and plowed simultaneously. The City of Erie exercises winter maintenance when the opportunity to do so is provided. Navigating more than 329 miles of linear road equates to treating and plowing over 600 miles of road – each day, 24/7, 365.
However, the city breaks the plowing routes into three portions for snow removal procedures.
1st Area: Inner City
- The shore to 32nd St., from Baur Ave to East Ave
- Odd-even parking in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays
- Plowed during the Day on WEEKDAYS
- Typically avoided on weekends due to congested streets from on street parking. Maintained during heavy snowfall on weekends.
2nd Area: Outlying Areas
- All the areas outside the area described above
- Plowed once the inner-city streets have been cleared
3rd Area: Downtown
- Dobbins landing to 26th Street, Holland to Peach
- Posted: No Parking from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
- Plowed from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
You can refer to the map below to see what zone you live in.
The bureau of streets switches to winter hours (3 shifts with 24/7 coverage) typically beginning the first week of December through mid-March. Switching to this model allows us to keep ahead of snow accumulations and limit overtime hours needed to maintain the roads.
The Streets Crew consists of 43 personnel with additional individuals pulled from the Bureau of Paint & Sign as well as Compost when circumstances necessitate extra staffing.
The City maintains over 328 linear miles of streets with 35 plow trucks. The only road within the city not maintained by city crews is the Bayfront Connector Highway which is maintained by PennDOT.
Snow Emergency Declaration
Heavy snowfall may result in the need to declare a “Snow Emergency” whereby Odd-Even parking is in effect 24/7, and throughout the weekend, until the emergency declaration has been lifted. This also applies in residential areas.
For residential guidelines for Odd-Even: if it is an Odd day you would park on the North or West side of your street, if it is Even you would park on the South or East side of the street. If you live in a cul-de-sac, please try and park in your driveway.
Winter, by the Numbers
Average City of Erie Snow Fall Amount: 100.7 inches
Pounds of salt used: 7,000 tons annually
Trucks and equipment: 35 heavy-duty trucks and miscellaneous heavy equipment
Number of employees: 43 plus additional bureaus when needed.
Salt, or sodium chloride, as it is known in the science world, works by lowering the freezing point of water. Water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Water needs colder temperatures in order to freeze when it’s exposed to salt. The more salt you add, the more difficult it is for water to freeze, which prevents ice build-up on the roadways.
The City of Erie Streets Crew uses straight salt and/or a pre-wetting agent to treat the roads before, during, and after a storm. This treatment is scheduled based on current weather predictions and over 200 years of combined experience. Public Works crews will pre-treat roads with a mix of salt and pre-wetting agent in the event that the weather calls for such a pre-treatment.
Salt pre-wetting agent delays ice from forming. If there is a lot of snow and ice on a road, the pre-wetting agent will seep into the bottom layers, breaking the bond between the ice and the road. The remaining snow and ice will then float along the top of the pre-wetting agent, making it easy for passing traffic to break it up.
The City of Erie does not use any other substances other than salt and pre-wetting agent to treat our roadways due to MS4 compliance. The use of other substances would damage the roads and our beloved waterways, tributaries, and lakes.
Our Public Works Department is ready for the winter. Now it’s your turn to get informed, get a plan for your family, and get prepared for winter!
What Can You Do To Help?
Residents are encouraged to do their part in winter as well.
- Be mindful of winter weather forecasts, and change long-distance travel plans if too dangerous to travel.
- If you must travel far during winter storms, make a travel kit consisting of critical supplies to take with you (see PennDOT’s winter PDF).
- Plow or shovel your sidewalk either yourself or through a private vendor. Per City Ordinance,it is the responsibility of the occupant of any home, apartment, store, storehouse, shop, garage, factory, church, schoolhouse, or other building to remove, or hire someone to remove, all snow, ice, or sleet from the sidewalk in front of the respective premises within three hours of the snowfall. Clearing sidewalks and berms, are critical tasks for each and every one of our residents. Snow- and ice-covered sidewalks and berms hinder pedestrians and those with movement disabilities from getting around safely.
- If you own a business or live within 1.5 miles of elementary and middle schools and 2 miles of high schools, please be sure to clear the sidewalks for the safety of our littlest pedestrians who walk to school. When sidewalks are not cleared, many of our young students are forced to walk in the streets to get to school, enduring some very dangerous conditions.
- If ice or snow is so hardened or frozen that it cannot be removed without injury to the sidewalk, occupant should sprinkle with sand, sawdust, or rock salt to make the surface of the sidewalk safe, and remove the ice and snow as soon as it is possible to do so. In the event of failure to remove the snow, ice, or sleet, the City reserves the right to have the snow removed at the expense of the owner.
- Be sure to abide by odd-even parking regulations so that plows are able to safely clear snow and emergency vehicles are able to safely pass through City streets. Some of our City streets within the urban core are so narrow that if cars are parked on both sides of the streets, our plow drivers are unable to pass through.
- If you are able to park in a driveway, do so to allow plows to clear snow from the streets and so as not to have your car plowed in and buried on the street.
- If your car gets buried and you leave it in the street, you may be towed by the Erie Police Department, which assists our Streets Crews in effectively clearing the streets.
- Please do not to shovel, blow, or plow snow into the streets.
- Clear away snow around fire hydrants so that in an emergency situation our Erie Firefighters have immediate access to the water source to extinguish the fire. Our Erie Firefighters lose critical, life-saving time if they have to clear the hydrants when they arrive.
- Please keep in mind where snow emergency routes are and help provide enough space for first responders and plows to get through by getting your vehicles off the road.
- If you are interested in volunteering to shovel out driveways and sidewalks, you can visit any number of social media sites to offer your services, by searching “Erie PA Shoveling” or “Erie Help Erie”
Regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground, you can take steps now to prepare yourself for all that winter brings. Continue below to learn some winter driving tips.
Winter Driving Tips
Our friends at PennDOT provided us with helpful tips about traveling during winter.
PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms. Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting 511pa.com. 511PA is free and available 24 hours a day, providing traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.
If there’s snow on the ground – SLOW DOWN!
According to the National Highway and Safety Administration “it’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. In fact, in 2019, there were an estimated 182,000 police-reported crashes that occurred in wintry conditions.
PennDOT recommends that if winter weather is forecast, you should eliminate all unnecessary travel. This will keep you and your family safe and allow PennDOT and your local municipality to more easily perform winter duties. However, if you must travel, PennDOT offers the following tips for safe driving this winter season. You may also download their Winter Driving Guide (PDF).
- Slow down and increase following distance. Approach intersections with stop signs and stop lights cautiously, by slowing down sooner than you normally would.
- Avoid sudden stops and starts.
- Increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
- Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside the truck. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently.
- Do not pass or get between trucks plowing in a plow line (several trucks plowing side-by-side).
- If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay far enough behind it and use caution if you pass the plow.
- Listen to weather and travel advisories, but if you don’t have to travel in bad weather, don’t.
- Carry a winter emergency travel kit (see the PDF for details).
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Beware of roads that may look wet, but are actually frozen, often referred to as “black ice”.
- Use extra caution on bridges and ramps, where ice can often form without warning.
- Carry a cellphone.
- Do not use cruise control while driving on snow-covered roads.
- State law requires you to turn on your headlights when your wipers are on.
- Use your low beams in particularly bad weather, especially in cases of heavy or blowing snow.
- Remove ice and snow from windows, mirrors, and all vehicle lights before you drive and as often as needed.
- Remove snow and ice from the hood and roof of your vehicle. State law states that if snow or ice from your vehicle strikes a vehicle or person and causes death or injury, you can be ticketed.
- Do not park or abandon your vehicle on snow emergency routes.
- Make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you expect to arrive. In case you run into an emergency and need help, someone will know where to look for you.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Do not text and drive.
- Always wear your seat belt.
For more on PennDOT’s winter guidance, please visit https://www.penndot.gov/winter
To see more information on winter driving tips, please visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at Winter Weather Driving Tips | NHTSA
What to do in an Emergency
If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, stay focused on yourself and your passengers, your car, and your surroundings.
- Stay with your car until help arrives and don’t overexert yourself.
- Let your car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows, keep the interior dome light on, and turn your four-way flashers on.
- Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow, and keep the downwind window cracked open. Run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.
How to Report Power Outages and Downed Lines
Residents who experience a service interruption due to the storm are encouraged to report their outage by calling 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877), texting OUT to LIGHTS (544487) or clicking the “Report Outage” link on www.firstenergycorp.com.
Residents can sign up to receive email and text message alert notifications for updates after they’ve reported a power outage. Residents can also use two-way text messaging to report outages, request updates on restoration efforts and make other inquiries about their electric accounts. More information about these communication tools is available at www.firstenergycorp.com/connect.
Ice accumulation can bring down power lines and tree branches. Residents should assume all downed or low-hanging power lines are energized and dangerous. Stay at least 30 feet away and use extra caution where downed lines are tangled in trees or other debris. Report downed lines ASAP by calling 911.
For updated information on the company’s current outages, the company’s storm restoration process and tips for staying safe, visit FirstEnergy’s 24/7 Power Center at https://www.firstenergycorp.com/outages.