Snow plowing and clearing

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Winter operations update

Though winter’s official debut is not for another couple of weeks, another winter event may be on its way to the Nation’s Capital.


Forecast and Conditions

Environment Canada has issued a Weather Advisory for the City of Ottawa. Beginning this afternoon and through this evening, we are expecting periods of lake-effect snow from Lake Ontario, possibly bringing local snowfall amounts of 5 to10 centimetres by tomorrow morning. As the exact path and probability of snowfall is still uncertain, we have decided not to call a Winter Weather Parking Ban for this event.

This afternoon and into tomorrow morning, travel may be hazardous and visibility – at times – may suddenly be reduced to zero due to heavy and blowing snow. We are asking everyone who is out traveling during this time to please adjust to the conditions of the traveling network.  

Our Response

Our team has been meeting regularly; our response plan is in place and we are ready. Supervisors are currently out monitoring the transportation network and we have staff and equipment prepared to be deployed as needed. At the start of accumulation and in accordance with the Council-approved Maintenance Quality Standards, we will focus on clearing our priority sidewalks, roads and the winter cycling network. Following the completion of our priority network, our operations will be carried out based on the level of accumulation that the City will have received.  

For more information on how we respond to winter conditions, please visit

Next Steps

We will continue to monitor the forecast and winter activities that are making their way from Lake Ontario. As needed, we will adjust our response according to the weather, and, if things change considerably, we will be in touch. Otherwise, please consider this your weekend winter operational update.

Please travel with care this weekend.


When roads and sidewalks get plowed

Snow removal is based on a road-priority system, with high-use roads and emergency and transit routes cleared first.

Plowing standards - EN

Plowing through a winter storm

After a severe snow storm, operators may have to plow a street twice. Sometimes a grader or dump truck with front and wing plows will do a first pass, followed by a sand/salt truck, to clear a small amount of snow and make sanding/salting more effective.

To clear a cul-de-sac, operators will push the remaining snow to the centre or outside of the street, depending on the available area.

In the early winter, the City removes ruts that have formed on snow-packed surfaces. This keeps catch basin open and helps prevent flooding.

Plowing standards
  • Major roads, arterials and major collector roads: Plows are deployed at the start of accumulation.

  • After the last snowflake falls:
    • Major roads, arterials and major collectors: Within four hours.  Roads will not be bare pavement during a storm.
    • Minor collector roads: Within six hours
    • Residential roads and lanes: Within 10 hours

Under extreme winter storm conditions (i.e. those that exceed normal conditions), snow and ice control operations will be carried out based on the capacity of resources in as continuous a manner as practicable. This will give crews the flexibility to provide relief in residential areas while simultaneously maintaining and clearing priority roads.

Significant Weather Events

What is a “Significant Weather Event”?

A “Significant Weather Event” (SWE) is defined as an approaching or occurring weather hazard with the potential to pose a significant danger to users of the highways within a municipality. Weather Hazards are determined by Environment Canada as meeting the criteria for the issuance of an alert under its Public Weather Alerting Program.

This declaration suspends the Maintenance Quality Standards (MQS) timelines required for our City to meet our winter maintenance objectives. This declaration will remain in place until the City formally declares the Significant Weather Event has ended. Once an event has ended, standard timelines for winter maintenance activities will begin.

Why would we need to declare a “Significant Weather Event”?

The intent of a declaration is to notify the public that due to the forecasted or current weather conditions, caution is to be exercised when travelling on the City’s sidewalks, pathways, roads and the winter cycling network, and that it will take longer than usual to restore them to the expected condition.

Is Ottawa the only city that declares “Significant Weather Events”?

Many cities and municipalities in Ontario declare “Significant Weather Events”. Under the Ontario Regulation 239/02, Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways, made under the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended, municipalities have been given the authority to declare a Significant Weather Event when a weather hazard is approaching or occurring and has the potential to pose a significant hazard to users of the highways in which the municipality has authority over.

Based on the legislation, a municipality may declare a Significant Weather Event when Environment Canada has issued an alert under its Public Weather Alerting Program. The municipality must also determine that an approaching or occurring winter event locally meets the criteria for a weather hazard, and in its judgement, also poses a significant danger to users of the highway.

How will I know the City has declared a “Significant Weather Event”?

When a Significant Weather Event has been declared, the City will:

  • Inform Council
  • Post a notice on
  • Send a PSA to media
  • Provide an update on the City’s Social Media accounts including Twitter and Facebook
  • Update the voice recording residents hear while calling 3-1-1 with notice of the event
    • Residents do not need to speak to a call centre agent in order to hear the recording

When the event has ended, the City will also post / share the notice indicating the Significant Weather Event has been lifted using the same tools.

What should a resident do when they see the City of Ottawa has declared a “Significant Weather Event”?

We will declare a Significant Weather Event when there is an occurring or expected weather hazard with the potential to pose a significant danger to users of our City’s sidewalks, pathways, roads and the winter cycling network. During such an event, residents are encouraged to limit travel to only essential trips outside of their home. Those who cannot are reminded to exercise caution based on the conditions of the transportation network, and to offer our snow clearing vehicles space to do their jobs.

During a Significant Weather Event, our winter operations will continue. We will continue to clear and treat the sidewalks, pathways, roads and winter cycling network – we just won’t complete our work within our Maintenance Quality Standards timelines.

Residents should sign up for Winter Weather Parking Ban e-Alerts to be alerted to an upcoming parking ban. A winter weather parking ban may be called at any time during the winter, including during a Significant Weather Event.

During a Significant Weather Event, all available resources will be deployed, and we will be asking residents to refrain from calling 3-1-1 or creating a service request for anything other than an emergency. 

Clearing snow from your property

  • Do not push snow and ice on the street, sidewalk or park.
  • Keep fire hydrants free of snow.
  • Use wood, plastic or fibreglass driveway markers, which should be no larger than a hockey stick.
  • Open catch basins or drains in front of your property when the weather becomes mild.
  • Catch basins are identified by a yellow “T” bar painted on the roadway.

A snow windrow is a pile of snow that accumulates at the end of driveways and on the sides of streets during plowing. It is the responsibility of the home owner to remove their own driveway windrows.

Snow fences

Snow fences reduce the build-up of drifting snow and ice on roads, and improve visibility for motorists. The City installs wood-slat snow fences or partners with local farmers for corn or tree fences.

Plant a snow fence

The City encourages landowners who plant corn to participate in the Alternative Snow Fencing Program.

In late summer, participating landowners leave six to 12 rows of standing corn parallel to the road and 20 metres from the road’s right-of-way property line. In December, landowners are paid an amount based on the market value per tonne of the unharvested corn, the yield of tonnes per acre, the actual acres standing and for spring clean-up work

In non-agricultural areas, landowners can plant trees 20 metres from the right-of-way property line.

To find out more, please call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401).

Snow removal and disposal

The City aims to distribute snow on both sides of the road. Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic. Snow banks that restrict sightlines at intersections and at pedestrian, school and railway crossings are removed within 24 hours after crews are made aware of the situation. If weather permits, snow banks are pushed back to curbs to provide more driving width on the roads and to make space to store snow.

The City’s snow disposal facilities do not accept snow from private operators. To find private snow disposal facilities, consult the Yellow Pages, Greater Ottawa Truckers Association or Ottawa Construction Association.

Snow clearing

Snow clearing maintenance standards

The City aims to keep streets clear of snow for everybody's safety.

Roads are classified based on their importance to Ottawa's transportation network. When a snowstorm begins, City crews clear snow on high priority roads, main arterials and collectors.

The City of Ottawa has developed maintenance standards for snow and ice control.

Snow disposal facilities

The City’s snow disposal facilities no longer accept non-city snow from private operators. They continue to accept snow from contractors hauling snow from public property on behalf of the City of Ottawa.

Snow plow contractors – business licensing

Every snow plow contractor must obtain a snow plow contractors license.

This schedule does not apply to:

  • people who clear snow with a shovel or with a manual snow-blower.
  • farmers who only clear snow to help out the community.

Corn row fencing

Corn row fencing is more effective than wooden snow fences in rural areas. Prior to the winter season, farmers and the City of Ottawa enter into an agreement to participate in the program. The City compensates landowners for the pre-negotiated market value of unharvested corn.

Replacement of damaged mailboxes by snow plow

Occasionally rural roadside mailboxes are damaged or destroyed by snow plows.

  • Mailboxes will be repaired or replaced as determined by the Roads Department Supervisor.
  • Mailboxes damaged by the snow that comes off the wing of the snow plow will not be eligible for repair or replacement.
  • Mailboxes will be replaced by something basic; do not expect to receive your original mailbox.
  • Damaged posts will be replaced by a temporary post with permanent repairs undertaken in the spring after the frost is gone.

To report a damaged mailbox, call the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 or report online at

Salt and sand

The City applies dry salt, wet salt, sand salt mix, liquid brine and abrasive materials on streets. Salt is spread early during a snowstorm to make a brine solution that prevents the ice from sticking to the asphalt.

To minimize salt use, rock salt is sprayed with a liquid de-icer as it is spread. This speeds up ice melting by making the salt sticky so it can adhere to the road.

Abrasive materials such as sand are used to increase traction in colder temperatures when salt is not effective.

Help make sidewalks safe

To make sidewalks safe to walk on in the winter, the City provides do-it-yourself grit boxes close to steep hills and in areas where there are many pedestrians, seniors and persons using mobility devices. Residents are encouraged to spread the grit on slippery spots on sidewalks and other problem areas. 

Where to find grit boxes

  • 100 Constellation Drive
  • 100 Empress Avenue
  • 1200 Quigley Hill Road
  • 150 MacLaren Street
  • 207 Woodroffe Avenue
  • 221 Nelson Street
  • 25 Fairmont Avenue
  • 264 Lisgar Street
  • 294 Otterson Drive, at the Otterson Tunnel
  • 31 McEwen Avenue
  • 327 Cyr Avenue
  • 395 Somerset Street West
  • 4120 Riverside Drive
  • 434 Brunskill Way
  • 441 Edgeworth Avenue
  • 5550 Ann Street
  • 587 Fielding Drive, at the Otterson Tunnel
  • 60 Cartier Street
  • 61 McEwen Avenue
  • 73 Rideau Street
  • 75 Bruyère Street
  • 77 Monk Street
  • 800 St. Laurent Boulevard
  • 905 Springland Drive, at the Flannery Tunnel
  • 917 Cromwell Drive, at the Flannery Tunnel
  • Corner of Beausoleil Drive and Cobourg Street
  • Corner of Carling Avenue and Britannia Road
  • Corner of Connaught Avenue and Sackville Street
  • Corner of Dalhousie Street and Bolton Street
  • Corner of Danforth Avenue and Churchill Avenue North
  • Corner of Deschênes Street and Pooler Avenue
  • Corner of Edgecliffe Avenue and Caldwell Avenue
  • Corner of Elgin Street and Slater Street, south of the ramp
  • Corner of George Street and William Street, by the pedestrian mall
  • Corner of Heney Street and Wurtemburg Street
  • Corner of Lacasse Avenue and Montreal Road
  • Corner of Laurier Avenue West and Metcalfe Street
  • Corner of Lenester Avenue and Iroquois Road
  • Corner of Lepage Avenue and McBride Street
  • Corner of MacLaren Street and Elgin Street
  • Corner of Osgoode Main Street and Vance Street
  • Corner of Maple Lane and Acacia Avenue
  • Corner of Meadowlands Drive East and Chesterton Drive
  • Corner of Metcalfe Street and MacLaren Street
  • Corner of Morisset Avenue and Merivale Road
  • Corner of New Orchard and Richmond Road
  • Corner of Ohio Street and Bank Street
  • Corner of Ravenhill Avenue and Melbourne Avenue
  • Corner of Rideau Street and Charlotte Street
  • Corner of Rideau Street and Colonel By Drive
  • Corner of Rideau Street and Mackenzie Avenue
  • Corner of Rideau Street and Wurtemburg Street
  • Corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Bank Street
  • Corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Riverdale Avenue
  • Corner of Trépanier Lane and Sparkle Street
  • Corner of York Street and William Street
  • Northeast corner of Albert Street and Metcalfe Street
  • Northeast corner of Gladstone Avenue and Rochester Street
  • Northwest corner of Bank Street and MacLaren Street
  • Southeast corner of Elgin Street and Cooper Street
  • Southeast corner of Albert Street and Empress Avenue
  • Southwest corner of Booth Street and Elm Street
  • Southwest corner of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue West
  • Dead end of Augusta Street, near Beausoleil Drive
  • Dead end of Echo Drive, near Avenue Road and Riverdale Avenue
  • 67 Balsam Street
  • Gladstone Avenue between Bayswater Avenue and Spadina Avenue
  • 975 Gladstone Avenue
  • Young Street between Bayswater Avenue and Fairmont Avenue
  • Base of pathway at King Edward Avenue and Union Street
  • Laurier Avenue Bridge, near the stairs on Colonel By Drive
  • Mackenzie King Bridge, near the stairs on Colonel By Drive
  • Bronson Avenue Bridge, near the stairs coming up from Colonel By Drive
  • Bronson Avenue Bridge, near both the east and west stairs coming up from Queen Elizabeth Drive
  • Underneath George Dunbar Bridge, between the stairs on Bronson Avenue
  • Nicholas Street, at the stairs up to Mackenzie King Bridge
  • Sparks Street between Elgin Street and Lyon Street North
  • South side of the top of the hill at Acacia Lane
  • 5512 Sand Road in Vars, ON