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Delaware Department of Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Frequently Asked Questions (Snow Specific)

DelDOT Snow Plow in action!

As an aide to public understanding and to solicit the cooperation of motorists and others in conducting effective snow removal operations, DelDOT offers the following list of frequently asked questions and answers.

A complete explanation of the Snow Removal Reimbursement Program.

View a continuously updated, interactive map of state road conditions maintained by DelDOT's Traffic Management Center.

Q. Who should I call if I need to travel by automobile due to an emergency situation and I am snowed in?
A: If there is an emergency that is life threatening, call 911.

However, if you have a non-life-threatening emergency and you need to travel by automobile you may request assistance by calling your county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This assistance is only available in extreme weather conditions.

Sussex County Emergency Operations Center: 302.855.7801
Kent County Emergency Operations Center: 302.735.3474
New Castle County Emergency Operations Center: 302.395.2700
Wilmington Emergency Operations Center: 302.576.3914
 
Q. What can citizens and businesses do to assist with snow removal?
A: The best way to assist in snow removal operations is to prepare well in advance for winter storms. By stocking up on items you and your family might need, and making other necessary arrangements with employers, family and friends, you should be able to stay safe and warm rather than be on roads exposed to potential hazards.

Keeping roads clear of traffic, reducing the incidence of stranded or stuck vehicles, and minimizing the need for emergency responders, helps DelDOT's snow removal teams do their jobs more thoroughly, efficiently and safely.
 
Q. What is a "snow emergency" and what should citizens do if one is declared?
A: Technically, Delaware does not declare snow emergencies. However, the state has a three-level system of driving warnings and restrictions. The levels are found in Title 20 of the Delaware Code, Subsection 3116(b)(12) and may be put in effect by the Governor during a State of Emergency for all or parts of Delaware based on conditions. Below is a summary of the three levels:

Level 1 — Driving Warning: Drivers are discouraged from operating a motor vehicle on the state's roadways, unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.

Level 2 — Driving Restriction: Travel on the roads is restricted to emergency workers, public utilities, healthcare providers including hospital staff, public and private operators of snow removal equipment, private sector food and fuel deliveries, and those industries, companies or organizations that have been provided a waiver, including businesses with pressing continuity and operational issues.

Level 3 — Driving Ban: Complete ban on driving except for first responders, utility personnel, and public or private snow removal. Businesses and organizations should adjust work schedules so that employees do not need to be on the roads during a Level 3 Driving Ban.
 
Q. What does it mean that a road is "passable," or "cleared?"
A: "Passable" means that a road can be driven upon by most vehicles, but the road may still be snow and ice covered. If motorists drive very slowly and carefully, they can be traveled on.
The shoulders of the road, turn lanes and crossovers are likely not plowed if a road is classified as passable.

"Cleared" means a road is almost entirely free of snow or ice. There might still be a spot of snow or ice that has re-formed, but for the most part, cleared roads are capable of supporting normal traffic speeds.
 
Q. Where does DelDOT get its weather information?
A: Primarily, DelDOT utilizes weather forecasts and other weather-related information from the National Weather Service. They provide official forecasts as well as weather updates throughout snow events to DelDOT's snow removal teams and officials at the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA).
 
Q. How and where does DelDOT measure snow fall?
A: DelDOT has 26 measuring stations throughout the state to record official snowfall. These stations are managed by the University of Delaware.

See a clickable map that provides the latest snow measurements from that system.

The National Weather Service also has snow measuring stations in Delaware. See those snow totals.
 
Q. How does DelDOT decide when to pre-treat roads in advance of a storm?
A: Our goal is to pre-treat primary roads with brine before snow or ice has a chance to accumulate. This causes the initial coating of snow and ice to melt and slows down or may even stop the accumulation of ice and snow on the road surface. Brine also serves as a bond breaker which helps for clearing the road.

There are several factors that determine whether DelDOT pre-treats roadways ahead of a storm:

  • DelDOT will not brine roads if the precipitation is predicted to begin as rain as this will wash the liquid salt solution off the roads and be ineffective.
  • If DelDOT has brined or salted roadways in the previous days and conditions have been dry, further pre-treatment may also be deemed unnecessary due to the residual salt on the roadways.
  • If pavement temperatures are forecasted to be above freezing, DelDOT may not brine in advance of a storm.
  • Depending on the severity of the storm that is forecasted, the air temperatures and pavement temperatures DelDOT may begin pre-treating roads as early as three days before an expected event.

 
Q. What does DelDOT use for pre-treating?
A: Typically, DelDOT uses a salt and water mixture called brine for pre-treating. Unlike straight salt, brine adheres to the road better, and will not be blown away by traffic or high winds.

As the snow begins to fall and accumulate, and throughout a snow event, road salt is used because the salt will adhere to the snow and ice and facilitate melting.
 
Q. Why can't DelDOT prevent ice from forming overnight at certain intersections or other trouble spots, and keep snow from drifting back onto roadways?
A: When temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or when snow is accumulating rapidly, snow-melting materials are less effective and plowing becomes the primary means of keeping roads passable. Although busy intersections and other potential trouble spots are attended to, often repeatedly, traffic moving back and forth through these busy areas pack the snow and ice onto the road making removal much more difficult.

Although DelDOT's crews frequently work long shifts into the late night and early morning hours, roads that freeze and refreeze or snow that falls and then drifts can be extremely difficult to overcome. While every situation is different, DelDOT's goal is to provide the public with the safest roads possible given the weather and traffic conditions, as well as the resources at our disposal.
 
Q. Who decides when to send out snow plows?
A: Pre-storm staffing decisions are made by management after forecasts are studied.

The Supervisors in Maintenance and Operations monitor the storm and the road conditions and determine when to start sending out the plows. The decision to begin deploying snow plows is made after forecasts are studied and estimates are made as to storm severity and duration, as well as the expected personnel and equipment resources required to do the job. DelDOT engineers in each county consult with each other and the Director of Maintenance & Operations to determine when and where snow plows should be deployed.
 
Q. How much snow has to fall before DelDOT plows?
A: DelDOT does not decide to begin plowing based on the amount of snow on the roads. The decision is made based on a variety of predictive and observed factors, including pre-treatment efforts, weather forecasts, field reports of changing weather conditions in different areas of the state and resources required for the event.
 
Q. How does DelDOT decide which roads to plow first?
A: DelDOT assigns priority levels to each road, taking into account the amount of traffic it typically carries, population density in the surrounding areas and how crucial it is to functioning of the overall road system. The DelDOT Gateway shows the designation of each road throughout the state and can be viewed and searched here.

Roads are typically assigned to one of three major categories:

Primary Roads, also known as Arterial Routes and/or Expressways
Definition: Multi-lane highways, and some two-lane roads designed to carry heavy traffic volumes between major destinations. Examples:
  • New Castle County, Interstate 95, SR 1, Route 13, Route 40,
  • Kent County, SR 1, Route 13
  • Sussex County, SR 1, Route 13, Route 404
  • All public transit routes throughout the state are also considered primary routes. This provides citizens with alternatives to driving during snow and ice storms.
Secondary Roads, also known as Collector Routes
Definition: These roads receive less traffic than primary roads, but are the main feeder routes to the primary roads. Examples:
  • New Castle County, Route 9, from Odessa to Bear, Route 71, Red Lion Road.
  • Kent County, Hazlettville Road.
  • Sussex County, Cave Neck Road, Route 24, John Williams Highway.
Local Roads
Definition: Roads that are used to travel to and from less densely populated residential or agricultural areas, used primarily by those who live along them.

These roads frequently have three-number designations.
 
Q. It's been hours/days and no plow truck in our area, when will we see plows?
A: DelDOT assigns priority levels to each road, taking into account the amount of traffic it typically carries, population density in the surrounding areas and how crucial it is to functioning of the overall road system. In a major snow event, plows may not reach secondary and local roads until the snow event has ended or longer. The DelDOT Gateway shows the designation of each road throughout the state and can be viewed and searched here.

See question "How does DelDOT decide which roads to plow first?" for a description of the three major roadway categories.
 
Q. How many miles of roadway is DelDOT responsible for plowing?
A: DelDOT maintains nearly 14,000 lane miles of roadway across the state.
 
Q. How many pieces of snow removal equipment does the DelDOT have?
A: DelDOT has more than 400 pieces of snow removal equipment statewide including plows, loaders, and motorgraders.
 
Q. Why does DelDOT not plow some streets?
A: While DelDOT is responsible for the maintenance of nearly 90% of roads in the state, the agency does not plow roads and streets that are maintained by towns or cities or in privately maintained subdivisions.
 
Q. Does Delaware plow subdivisions?
A: DelDOT only plows roads within subdivisions if the subdivisions are not in the Snow Removal Reimbursement Program when snow accumulations are greater than 4 or 6 inches (depending on location). DelDOT does plow some roads that are within city or town limits, but only those that are designated state maintained roads.

DelDOT does not plow snow in privately owned subdivisions.

The DelDOT Gateway shows the designation of each road throughout the state and can be viewed and searched here.
 
Q. Is there a program by DelDOT that helps pay for plowing in subdivisions?
A: DelDOT does not plow privately-owned and maintained subdivisions. However, if a subdivision has state-maintained roads, those communities can sign up to be part of a DelDOT program that reimburses those communities for a major portion of the cost to hire a private contractor for snow removal.

Get more information on the Snow Reimbursement Program
 
Q. Do snow plow drivers receive special training?
A: Yes. In addition to maintaining a Commercial Driver's License, our operators are certified in the operation of many types of equipment. Snow plow drivers spend many hours honing skills that are specific to plowing snow.
 
Q. Does DelDOT use independent contractors to help with snow removal?
A: DelDOT uses contractors, such as landscaping companies, large roadway contractors, and many local farmers to assist with snow removal during major snow events. Because hiring contractors is an additional cost, DelDOT must balance the use of contractors with the existing capabilities of DelDOT personnel and equipment already paid for by taxpayers.
 
Q. Does DelDOT use snow fences to help prevent drifting snow?
A: DelDOT does not routinely use snow fences because of the various costs and challenges associated with erecting, removing and maintaining fences.
 
Q. What does DelDOT recommend for driving in wintry conditions?
A: DelDOT recommends the following:

  • Check www.deldot.gov for latest information on road conditions.
  • Allow extra time to get to your destination.
  • Clean off your car of snow and ice as much as possible. Snow and ice that flies off of moving vehicles is a hazard to other vehicles on the roadway. Keep windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are in good condition and vehicle has plenty of windshield wiper fluid to help keep windshield clear.
  • Always buckle up.
  • Keep headlights on.
  • Slow down in poor visibility conditions.
  • Maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles.
  • Expect ice on bridges and in shady spots.
  • Check to be sure all four tires are properly inflated and in good condition.
  • Keep an emergency travel kit in your car. The kit should include: flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit with a pocket knife, at least one blanket, an extra set of mittens, socks and a wool cap, a small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels, a small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, canned fruit, nuts and a non-electric can opener.
  • Wait out storm for conditions to improve if at all possible.

 
Q. What are driving tips around snow plows?
A: Our snow plows are on the road for your safety. When you encounter a snowplow, remember:

  • Don't crowd the plow.
  • Plow drivers have limited visibility so don't assume your vehicle is in view.
  • Maintain a safe distance behind the snow plow – at least five car lengths.
  • Plows aren't just removing snow. They may also be spreading salt or brining roadways.
  • Be patient—slow down, plows are large and move slower than highway speeds when plowing.

 
Q. My vehicle is stuck in the snow - what do I do?
A: Should your vehicle become stuck in the snow, you can contact the local emergency operations center for assistance. However, given the severity of a storm, an immediate response is not guaranteed and you should keep an emergency travel kit in your car.

The kit should include: flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit with a pocket knife, at least one blanket, an extra set of mittens, socks and a wool cap, a small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels, a small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, canned fruit, nuts and a non-electric can opener.
 
Q. Where can I get information on current road conditions?
A: www.deldot.gov has updates on current road conditions and users can also view more than 100 traffic cameras around the state for real-time status. DelDOT is also the only state in the country with its own radio station – 1380AM WTMC – that provides 24/7 reports on road conditions.

The free DelDOT mobile app also provides real-time information such as traffic cameras, road conditions, snow accumulation, and the snow plow tracker to monitor snow removal operations.
 
Q. What is the DelDOT snow plow tracker?
A: All of DelDOT's snow plows have tracking software installed to show users where snow plows are operating throughout Delaware to help ease confusion and frustration during a snowstorm. When active, the snow plow tracker can be viewed on the interactive map feature on www.deldot.gov and the DelDOT mobile app.
 
Q. Where can I find more information about the State of Emergency Driving Waiver Program?
A: The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) has information on the program available here.
 
Q. What is a Level 1 Driving Warning?
A: A Level 1 Driving Warning means:

  • Any person operating a motor vehicle shall exercise extra caution in the operation of their motor vehicle.
  • Motorists are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle on the State's roadways unless there is a significant safety, health, or business reason to do so.


More information on driving restrictions can be found here.
 
Q. How do I obtain a Level 2 Emergency Driving Restriction Waiver?
A: Businesses can apply for a Level 2 Emergency Driving Restriction Waiver from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) by completing the online application here. This process must be completed prior to a storm event. No waiver application will be granted within 21 days after receipt of the application for waiver, and applications will not be processed for approval during an emergency period.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) has information on the program available here.
 
Q. Who is considered "essential personnel" during a Level 2 Driving Restriction?
A: Per Title 20 Chapter 31 of Delaware State Code, persons designated as essential personnel including operators of snow removal equipment employed or contracted by a public or private entity, and employees and/or personnel who are necessary to maintain the core functions of a government body or entity, and to maintain the health and safety of the people in Delaware by providing services provided by public utilities as defined in § 102(2) of Title 26, health-care services, and food and fuel deliveries during a state of emergency, regardless of whether they are employed by a public or private entity.

Businesses can apply for a Level II Emergency Driving Restriction Waiver from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) by completing the online application here. This process must be completed prior to a storm event. No waiver application will be granted within 21 days after receipt of the application for waiver, and applications will not be processed for approval during an emergency period.
 
Q. Can my employer reprimand me for not traveling to work during a Level 2 Emergency Driving Restriction or Level 3 Driving Ban?
A: An employer or entity which has not been granted a waiver shall not terminate, reprimand, discipline, or in any way commit any adverse employment action against an employee who, as a result of the activation of the Level 2 Driving Restriction or Level 3 Driving Ban, fails or refuses to report to work during the pendency of the driving restriction or driving ban. Any person or entity who violates an activated level 2 driving restriction or level 3 driving ban under Title 20 Chapter 31 of Delaware State Code shall be in violation of § 4176D of Title 21.
 
Q. I'm essential personnel and can't get to work, who do I contact for transportation?
A: During winter weather events, DelDOT crews work around the clock to treat and clear roadways. Citizens who are considered essential personnel and need to travel despite conditions should call their county Emergency Operations Center or in case of an emergency, 911. This assistance is only available in extreme weather conditions and individuals should make preparations to travel to their destination prior to a snow event, as assistance cannot be guaranteed.

Sussex County Emergency Operations Center: 302.855.7801
Kent County Emergency Operations Center: 302.735.3474
New Castle County Emergency Operations Center: 302.395.2700
Wilmington Emergency Operations Center: 302.576.3914
 
Q. Why do snow plow drivers sometimes seem to drive faster than is safe considering the road conditions?
A: DelDOT is responsible for nearly 14,000 lane miles of road in the state, and snow removal operations must proceed as quickly and safely as possible to restore safe driving conditions. In addition, drivers must maintain a sufficient speed to ensure that the plowed snow is pushed off the road. Drivers are trained to operate their equipment at safe speeds that will result in an effective snow removal effort over a large area.

If you feel a vehicle is being driven in a reckless or unsafe manner, please contact DelDOT's Transportation Management Center at 302-659-4600 or #77 with detailed information about the situation.
 
Q. Why are snow plows or other DelDOT vehicles sometimes parked at local businesses or on the side of the road during a storm?
A: DelDOT crews work long hours during storm events, and sometimes take their meal breaks at local businesses.

Plows are sometimes prepositioned to areas around the state before a storm begins so that they can begin plowing and treating roads as soon as precipitation begins.
 
Q. My road was plowed and now our driveways are blocked, how am I supposed to get out? Does DelDOT plow driveways?
A: Unfortunately, DelDOT cannot plow private driveways unless requested to do so by emergency officials. We understand snow plowed from roads can be frustrating as it can create large piles in front of driveways and other crossings. Our colleagues in the Missouri Department of Transportation have created this video about how to prevent your driveway from being plowed in.
 
Q. Does DelDOT use sand on roadways?
A: DelDOT does not use sand on roadways unless there is a very specific circumstance.
 
Q. Why do some trucks ride with their plows up?
A: Trucks are assigned to plow specific roads, and they must travel quickly, but safely, over a primary or other road to get to the next assigned area. With their plows down, trucks move more slowly, and may need to stop at each crossroad. In addition, if a road has been recently salted, driving with the plow down may remove the salt that has been applied to help melt the snow or ice.
 
Q. Does DelDOT use snow fences to help prevent drifting snow?
A: DelDOT stopped deploying snow fences approximately 15 years ago because of the various costs associated with erecting, removing and maintaining fences far exceeded their effectiveness in Delaware, and these resources could be better utilized in other pressing maintenance operations. Extensive snow fencing is expensive and requires many personnel and hours to install. Depending on wind direction - which can vary widely in Delaware - snow fences can be either be helpful or a detriment in controlling drifting. In the wrong conditions they can cause snow to accumulate on the wrong side of the fence and onto the road surface.
 
Q. How much money does DelDOT spend on snow removal?
A: Since each winter and each winter storm is different, it is hard to say how much DelDOT spends on snow removal. DelDOT budgets $10 million dollars for snow removal each fiscal year but the amount spent varies.
 
Q. How much does DelDOT spend on average per inch of snow?
A: DelDOT does not calculate an average per-inch cost on snow removal as each snow event is unique and has different challenges. For example, one storm event could cause significant icing and require many personnel hours and tons of salt with little snow accumulation. There could be an event with snow accumulation, but minimal drifting and a rapid return to higher temperatures that cause it to melt quickly minimizing the need for salt use and plowing efforts. Another event could have the same amount of snow, but temperatures remain freezing for days, and winds continue to create drifts, driving up snow removal costs.
 
Q. What is brine?
A: Brine is a liquid salt mixture of 23% rock salt (sodium chloride) and 77% water that can be sprayed onto the road prior to a winter storm to form a bond breaker, helping to keep snow or ice from sticking to the ground. Brine has the same melting characteristics of solid rock salt, but since it is applied in liquid form, it is more effective at sticking the salt to the roadway.

Using brine is cost effective. It takes four times less salt to prevent ice from accumulating on the roads than to remove it after it has formed. Other uses for brine include spraying it on icy roads to help melt the ice quickly and spraying it on rock salt as it is spread to help stick the rock salt to the pavement and to speed up the ice and snow melting process.
 
Q. How does Delaware compare to other states in snow removal operations?
A: Each state and region face unique weather, geography, traffic and resource challenges. The goal of a successful state snow removal operation is to gauge the conditions they are most likely to encounter from year to year and to put enough primary resources of personnel and equipment into place to act quickly and effectively when called upon. These resources need to be augmented by contingency plans that can be utilized if an especially severe, protracted or repeated situation occurs that might overwhelm the primary resources at the state's disposal.
Despite decades of experience and training, and the assistance of the National Weather Service, the entire snow removal process in every state comes down to dedicated and skillful people making the best decisions they can given the information and resources they have at their command.
 
Q. If my mailbox or other property is damaged by a snow plow, what should I do?
A: DelDOT takes every reasonable precaution to minimize or prevent any damage to public or private property during any of its operations. However, if your property was damaged, please call the Delaware insurance coverage office at 877.277.4185 or email Delaware Insurance Coverage Office. 
 


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