Snow plowing and clearing

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Winter Operations Update - Thursday, April 4 - Morning

This could be it, Ottawa; we just need to get through the next 36 hours. Then the sun will come out, temperatures will be in the double digits, and we can get our spring on!  

Forecast and conditions

A Snowfall Warning remains in effect for the Ottawa region with 5 to 10 centimetres expected today before tapering off to light snow this afternoon. Wind will be coming in from the east at 40 kilometres per hour and gusting to 60. Travel may be hazardous due to reduced visibility and local blowing snow.

Residents are reminded to exercise caution while using all transportation networks.

Our response

The Roads and Parking Services team continues to operate 24/7, and supervisors will be monitoring the conditions throughout the day and will deploy resources when necessary. Given the warmer temperatures forecasted over the weekend, there are no plans to clear residential streets. 

Next steps

The Roads and Parking Services Team will continue to monitor the forecast and the conditions of the transportation network over the next 36 hours and unless the forecast changes significantly, this will serve as the operational update for this spring storm. 

We appreciate your patience as we navigate responding to this weather event and our spring operations.

Please continue to travel with care today.

When roads and sidewalks get plowed

Snow clearing is done using a road-priority system, with high-use, emergency and transit routes cleared first:

  • At the start of accumulation:
    • Highway 174, the Transitway, major roads and arterials.
    • After the last snowflake has fallen, these routes may take 2 to 4 hours to complete.   
  • 2.5 centimetres accumulation:
    • Sidewalks in the downtown core and the winter cycling network
    • After the last snowflake has fallen, these routes may take up to 4 hours to complete 
  • 5 centimetres accumulation:
    • Secondary roads and minor collectors such as Wall Road, Dovercourt Avenue, Donald Street, Springbrook Drive, etc.
    • After the last snowflake has fallen, these routes may take up to 6 hours to complete 
  • 5 centimetres accumulation:
    • Residential sidewalks
    • After the last snowflake has fallen, these routes may take 12 to 16 hours to complete 
  • 7 or more centimetres of accumulation
    • Residential roads and lanes such as Billings Bridge, Waverley Street, Smith Road, etc.
    • After the last snowflake has fallen, these routes may take 10 to 16 hours to complete.

Timelines are suspended if a Significant Weather Event is declared as operations will be carried out based on the capacity of resources in as continuous a manner as practicable.

A timeline of snow clearing operations based on a road-priority system

Plowing through a winter storm

After a severe snowstorm, 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.

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 operations

Snowbanks on the City’s transportation network are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, or pedestrian, vehicular, and cycling traffic. Residents are responsible for snowbanks along their private driveway.

Snowbank removal operations come secondary to standard snow clearing operations (i.e., when there is a storm, and teams must plow and/or treat roads). If snowbank removal operations are underway and a storm begins or is approaching, teams may temporarily be redeployed to respond to the changing conditions. Snowbank removal operations will resume once clearing and/or treating is complete.

What to expect

Before snowbank removal operations begin, signs will be posted in the snowbanks of streets where operations are scheduled to take place:

  • Parking is prohibited in areas where snow bank removal is taking place and drivers are required to abide by posted signage. Parking permit holders are not exempt from snow removal operations. Failure to remove a vehicle from a zone where temporary no stopping signs are posted will result in a ticket, and the vehicle will be towed to a nearby street.

Signs are not removed before operations begin as this would very time consuming but most importantly, too dangerous for teams to be working in front of the blades. Instead, signs are made using biodegradable material along with the snow, are blown into the trucks and are then brought to the snow storage facilities where they will be disposed of accordingly.

To keep our teams safe, signs are not removed before operations begin as it is too dangerous to be working in front of the blades.

Looking for your towed vehicle? Please call 3-1-1.

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 licence.

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 abrasive materials (grit)

The City applies dry salt, wet salt, liquid brine and abrasive materials (such as a grit mix) 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 grit are used to increase traction in colder temperatures when salt is not effective.

Garbage and recycling collection during a winter storm

Place garbage containers and bags and recycling bins at the curb. Do not place them behind or on top of snow banks.

Keep bins out of the way of pedestrians and plows

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
  • 2947 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
  • 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