Snow Process

    Each winter storm is slightly different and requires different approaches as it relates to snow and ice management. Columbia Public Works has a basic plan which can be modified before and during the storm. Basic policies are set forth with approval from staff and council. The snow and ice management process is dependent on the type of precipitation; depth of snow, sleet or ice; temperature of air and pavement; and timing of winter weather events. 

    Our Process 

    The City Channel produced a video in 2013 which highlights the city’s policies and processes for snow – click here

    Below is a general outline of the steps we undertake to keep Columbia’s streets passable during winter storms.


    Anti-Icing Applied when conditions are appropriate


    Before snow falls –

    We monitor forecasts and consult with our weather service provider as to what types of precipitation will fall, amounts, and timing. If road surface temperatures, forecast air temperatures, and precipitation types are favorable for applying anti-icing materials to road surfaces, we begin that process. We use a liquid brine solution which may be mixed with natural beet juice. If rain proceeds the snow/ice, we may not pre-treat as the rain may wash treatment materials off of the road.




    Priority Roads plowed, de-icing applied when appropriate


    When snow begins –

    When snow starts falling, we begin plowing the 1st and 2nd priority routes. We may also apply a de-icer such as dry salt or dry salt wetted with calcium chloride to assist with melting any snow which may be falling or left on the road after plowing. If snow accumulations exceed 2 inches, we activate the snow routes and send out notices to tell motorist to remove their vehicles from snow routes. Click here to sign up for alerts from NIXLE.




    Residential routes plowed, de-icing applied when appropriate


    After 1st and 2nd priority routes are plowed and treated –

    When we have completed the 1st and 2nd priority routes, we then move onto non-priority routes. We plow and may treat non-priority routes during normal business hours (7 am to 3:30 pm) if the snow accumulations are less than 4 inches. When snow accumulations exceed 4 inches, we utilize overtime crews until all roads are passable. We encourage residents to move their vehicles off of the street, even if they are not on a priority snow route, so that we can complete our task more efficiently.

    The City of Columbia subscribes to a customized weather forecast provided by Weather or Not, Inc. to obtain forecast information for expected precipitation and weather conditions specific to Columbia.