Prepping for winter weather

Drivers will need shovels and scrapers when snow and ice descend, and while city and county crews have geared up for slick and frigid road conditions, winter mobility also depends on residents staying informed and prepared for winter weather.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Drivers will need shovels and scrapers when snow and ice descend, and while city and county crews have geared up for slick and frigid road conditions, winter mobility also depends on residents staying informed and prepared for winter weather.

The weeks after Halloween are when both Hood River city and county’s public works departments take the time to make sure that all of their equipment is ready for winter.

“For the most part, winter road maintenance is a responsive action,” said Mikel Diwan, director of public works for Hood River County.

“If it’s moist and the temperatures are expected to drop enough, or freezing is in the forecast, we’ll apply deicer to a selection of roads,” he said. “But as for snow removal, we’ve done what we can to prepare and it’s simply a case of waiting until it starts snowing and then going to work. Even when a big storm is expected, the most we can do is double-check the equipment and be ready.”

The city and the county both use sanders, as the State of Oregon doesn’t allow the use of salt for environmental reasons.

The city has a couple of new devices this year to help in extreme conditions, said Mark Lago, director of public works for the City of Hood River — including a snow blower that can scoop snow directly into dumpsters, so it doesn’t accumulate on the sidewalk, and an ice breaker, “basically a roller with spikes on it,” to better deal with thick, solid ice or packed snow.

“We all remember the winter of 2016, so we’re hoping never to get to that,” but the city will be ready if it does, Lago said.

The city will soon be mailing out its Snow Plow Priority Map, which details the city’s plowing procedures. The map is currently available on the city’s website.

Due to budget cuts related to the county’s budget issues, the county’s public works department has to set aside some planned maintenance work in order to prioritize winter maintenance on county roads.

“We don’t expect a big change soon, but it’s likely coming,” Diwan said.

City and county residents are reminded to watch the weather forecasts and prepare themselves for extreme winter weather ahead of time.

A few recommended measures include turning off exterior water to prevent pipe freezing, clearing gutters, and making that sure snow shovels and winter clothes are in good repair and accessible.

As always, if road conditions are poor, people are advised to refrain from traveling unless absolutely necessary.

If you are driving, Hood River Police Chief Neal Holste recommends that drivers slow down, keep plenty of distance between yourself and other vehicles, and avoid hard-braking and abrupt steering maneuvers. Drivers should also have traction devices like chains or snow tires available.

Most of all, he said, be patient and allow plenty of time to get to destination, so you aren’t tempted to rush.

For more information, visit the city and county websites at and

When the snow plows are out...

The city and county have different rules when it comes to clearing snow, but regardless of whose roads you’re on, give snow plows adequate room to maneuver and don’t try to pass if they’re plowing or applying sand. Keep clear of intersections when you see a snow plow approaching, and don’t shovel ice or snow into the streets at any time.

County Procedure

The county’s current policy is to start plowing when there’s two inches of snow buildup, “but if there’s two inches here, it’s already deeper in the upper valley,” Diwan said. This season, due to budget cuts, they will likely wait to start plowing until there is three to four inches of buildup, he said.

The objective of snow removal is to provide a safer travel lane only, Diwan said, and the county will not plow or shovel around mailboxes. If a mailbox is struck or damaged, please call the public works office at 541-386-2616.

The county doesn’t plow, shovel or clear driveways of snow. “If a county vehicle throws snow in a driveway that a property owner already cleared, we apologize for the inconvenience, but it remains the property owner’s responsibility to clear it again,” Diwan said.

Vehicles are not permitted to be parked on county roads when snow is accumulating, and public works can cite or tow any vehicles that hinder snow removal. “Please be considerate of the operator’s safety and the work they are doing,” Diwan said.

The county doesn’t move trash bins when plowing, so Diwan asks that people set them back, but no more than 10 feet from the roadway, if possible, so garbage collectors can still safely get to them.

City Procedure

The city doesn’t start plowing until there’s three-inches or more of snow build-up.

Plowing starts on high-priority streets and moves to lower priority streets, and the city reserves the right to leave lower priority streets untouched for up to 72 hours following the storm in order to facilitate cleanup in priority areas. The Snow Plow Priority Map is available on the city’s website, and will be mailed out soon.

When plows are out, parking is allowed on the south and west sides of the street, but parking is prohibited on downtown primary streets between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., and Heights primary streets between midnight and 6 a.m. The city will tow vehicles hindering snow removal at the owner’s expense.

Property owners and tenants are responsible for removing snow and ice from sidewalks and around fire hydrants within 48 hours of the snowfall, depending on the severity of the storm.

Shoveled snow and ice should be placed in the yard, not near the curb or in the street. Even though some sidewalks and driveways will be blocked during plowing operations, residents are still responsible for clearing this snow. “Public works staff regret this inconvenience but have limited equipment and staff hours to clear all the city’s streets,” said Lago.

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