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County Debuts New Winter Weather Web Portal

by ARLnow.com December 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm 3,573 31 Comments

With talk of some snowflakes in the forecast tonight, Arlington County picked a good day to debut a new web portal called “Arlington Snow and Ice Central.”

The website offers one-stop shopping for residents seeking more information on winter weather preparations, winter weather safety tips, road condition and snow plowing updates, and answers to snow removal ordinance questions. The site also links to the county’s snow issue reporting page.

One of the new features introduced with the new portal is a “snow phase system,” which will designate how far along the county is in its snow clearing efforts after a storm. The page will indicate whether the county is in Phase 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Phase 1 is the “Alert” phase, when snow crews are pre-treating roads and residents are being encouraged to park their cars off-street, if possible.

Phase 2 is the “Primary Routes” phase, when the storm is in progress or has just concluded. In this phase, county and VDOT crews are working to clear primary and secondary roads only. Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads and help clear sidewalks during this phase.

Phase 3 is the “Residential Streets” phase, when crews are working to make residential streets passable while widening the clear path on primary roads.

Phase 4, the “Clean Up” phase, is when crews will focus on removing ice and slush from roads while using the sun as a tool for melting leftover snow.

Arlington County said it’s ready to respond should winter weather strike.

“When forecasters predict winter weather — snow, ice or freezing rain — Arlington’s plows and salt trucks are prepped and ready to go,” the county said in a press release. “Residents, at any time, can check the storm’s progress, track the County’s efforts to clear streets of snow, and learn how to best prepare for the winter weather. The current phase will be posted on the County web site and social media channels.”

  • Prompt Shovel

    It concerns me that the County is going to rely on people’s honesty about their ability to clear their walks. The kind of person who is selfish and lazy enough not to shovel is the kind of person who would lie and say they’re disabled on a County form.

    County, are you listening? Why NOT keep a list and then do random verifications?

    • jack

      So you’re cool with paying a little more in taxes for the county to hire a Snow Patrol?

  • Since it’s buried in a link within the County link, here’s what I was referring to (under Exemptions):

    “Individual homeowners who are physically incapable of complying with the ordinance are exempt. The County will not be pre-qualifying or maintaining lists of exempt individuals.
    Prior to issuing citations, County staff will make every effort to contact owners to determine if they are exempt. If the unlikely event that you receive a citation (and you are exempt), merely provide information about your exemption.”

    So I can just fail to shovel and then call the County and say I have a bad back?

  • Garden City

    And it provides a convenient form you can use to rat out your neighbors who don’t shovel their sidewalks.

    • Yeah, but it sounds like the County will just call them up, and then the non-shoveler will spew forth some fabricated ailment, whereupon the County enforcer will check that house off the complaint list.

      Bottom line: If you buy a house with a sidewalk in front of it, you should expect to shovel.

      • SidewalkSentinel


        Maybe the County should subsidize physicals for the “designated shoveler” of each house with a sidewalk in front of it. The product of the exam would be a Certificate of Physical Ability for shoveling snow, so most households wouldn’t be able to plead physical infirmity.

        • Prompt Shovel

          Haha. But seriously, the burden of proof should be on the resident to prove they’re unable to either 1. shovel the walk themselves or 2. hire/beg/bribe with pie someone else to do it.

          • WI Native

            I bribed with 1/2 of a batch of cookies the last couple of years, which one of my guy friends thought was a great exchange.

          • Zoning Victim

            How ridiculous. With as little snow as we get around here, this is a non-issue, anyway. I have a huge problem with the government mandating people to work for free for the alleged public good, anyway, but now you want to cry about people who don’t shovel their sidewalks due to medical issues possibly faking their issues to the point where you want to reverse one of our biggest protections against government tyranny, which is putting the burden of proof of the commission of any crime on the government. The idea that any American would be for putting the burden of proof on the individual instead of the government in all cases where the government is making some type of claim and impacts the individual is just plain scary. In addition, the county has no business even asking if your medically capable of shoveling your sidewalk.

          • speonjosh


            Jeez, I think your reasonableness radar is on the fritz, ain’t it?

            “Work for free for the alleged public good.”

            OK. Whatever you say.

            I’ll admit that many laws require you NOT to do something. So you can say to yourself, “well, I wasn’t going to do that anyway, so it’s not burdensome to me.” But there are plenty of laws that DO require action – getting your car inspected, filing taxes, getting a permit to open a business, etc. I imagine that you probably object to all of them. But frankly the shoveling the sidewalk requirement is probably among the least burdensome, really. To use it as your evidence of some sort of tyrannical government intrusion is sort of absurd. And it’s a point of view that I think would put you in a fairly small minority. Even paying taxes, which is a far more intrusive requirement, is accepted by large majorities as just something that is necessary in order for a society as large and complex as ours to function properly.

            I do agree with you, however, that once the paperwork claiming an exemption is filed and approved by the government, it should then be up to the government to prove that it was filed fraudulently. In the case of certain medical exemptions, however, it might be reasonable to grant the exemption only for a limited period of time after which the person would have to demonstrate that the medical condition remains. Obviously old age or permanent disability would probably result in permanent exemption status.

          • Zoning Victim

            My remarks about tyranny were in regards to having the burden of proof of innocence on the individual; they were not about having to shovel show. And no, I don’t think I was over reacting to the idea that we should take away that protection in the event that someone doesn’t shovel their sidewalk. Although, I still find the government forcing you to shovel snow on your sidewalk or risk a fine to be forced physical labor. This is not the same thing as having to get your car inspected or any of the other things you’ve mentioned.

            It’s not burdensome for me to have to shovel two feet of snow off of 200 feet of sidewalk (or more if that’s what surrounds my house) in 24-36 hours after the snow storm stops? People die shoveling much smaller amounts of snow than that pretty much every year. Can the county guarantee me that I can hire someone to do it in that amount of time? How about three feet of snow? Four feet? In theory, we could get 20′ of snow, and I’d still be guilty of violating this ordinance if I didn’t get it shoveled off of my sidewalk in 36 hours. About 5 people a day walk down my street; notice I said street, not sidewalk. We get snow an average of what, four or five times a year with most of it melting within a day or two? It’s a stupid solution to a non-existent issue.

            Again, medical information is privileged information. The government has no business asking me what my medical condition is unless I’m asking to take advantage of a privilege that could potentially put other people in danger, and even then they can only ask about things that could specifically impact my ability to perform that privilege (like giving me an eyesight test before licensing me to exercise the privilege of driving). The very fact that they’re not going to fine you if you have a medical condition that would preclude you from safely doing the work is proof that this is forced labor at the threat of getting fined.

  • Andrew

    Phase 4, the “Clean Up” phase, is when crews will focus on removing ice and slush from roads while using the sun as a tool for melting leftover snow.

    Seriously? Usin the sun as a tool to melt snow? So crews will stand out there and watch the sun melt the snow?


      Dude, I think you’re missing the awesomeness of that sentence. As a world-class community, The SUN is just a TOOL that the County uses when it needs to.

      That rocks, ladies and gentlemen.

      • For the record, those were our words, not the county’s. I guess we could have phrased it differently: “use the sun as a means to…”

        • Josh S

          Maybe “allow the sun to” –

    • Zoning Victim

      Gigantic magnifying glasses?

  • SidewalkSentinel

    I’m glad that in my neighborhood the sidewalk is on the other side of the street. I’ve determined that all of my neighbors on that side are physically able to shovel their portions of the sidewalk, and will provide an anonymous tip to Arlington County if they fail to do so.

  • OX4

    Some people really get their rocks off from ratting out their neighbors. I bet they secretly love when their neighbors don’t shovel just so they can complain.

    • SidewalkSentinel

      Maybe “some people” feel that way, but I just want a cleared sidewalk to walk on.

    • drax

      I hope you get snowed in this year, OX4. Don’t rat on your neighbors, you snitch.

      • Prompt Shovel

        Neighbors who don’t shovel a public area are BAD neighbors and SHOULD be reported.

        • speonjosh

          Says you.

          Who granted you powers of prosectuor, judge and jury?

          (Unless you’re talking about someone who A) is clearly capable and B) NEVER shovels.

          Then I would tend to agree.)

        • Zoning Victim

          So are the people who paint their houses pastel colors; off with their heads!

      • Zoning Victim

        Snowed in, seriously? How often does that really happen, and how can the average person be expected to clear several feet of snow when it does? Even the county can’t remove the snow from the streets fast enough to comply with the standards they’ve set for everyone else.

      • speonjosh

        Huh? I think he expresses a legitimate point about the eagerness of some to be busibodies in the neighborhood.

  • jjbug1

    Where did I get the idea that if a side of the street had no sidewalk, no parking would be allowed on that side of the street! The plows will create the lane for cars, bikes and pedestrians with one sweep if all the cars are out of the way!

    Those homeowners forgot to buy a sidewalk (and possibly enough parking sports!).

    • SidewalkSentinel


  • brendan

    this phase system appears to be built around responding to anomaly events such as snowpocalypse, not the more typical 2-8″ ‘events’ when you might have 2-3 phases going at once depending on amount and rate of snowfall.

  • GreaterClarendon

    I’ve tried for the last 4 weeks to have a company come out and give an estimate for managing snow and ice removal at our home. 5 companines have not returned my phone call, and 1 never showed up for the appointment, and two looked at the property and were not interested. I’ve got a temporary medical condition where I cannot shovel for another year, and my wife leaves for work before our 2 kids in diapers wake up. Don’t kow what will happen if it snows while we are on vacation. Wish Arlington would provide info on how to contact businesses interested in residential snow management.

    • SidewalkSentinel

      Are there some teenagers on your block? Ask them to take over your sidewalk-clearing responsibility in exchange for payment.

  • BlueSkies

    When is the “OMG, IT’S GOING TO SNOW; WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!” phase? Seems that phase happens here more than the other four.


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