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City of Rochester
201 4th Street SE
Rochester, MN  55904

Phone: 507-328-2900
Fax: 507-328-2901
TDD: 507-328-2900

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Record Snowfall Brings Forward Important Snow Removal Reminders

Post Date:02/20/2019 9:21 AM

Rochester has seen record snowfall during the month of February.  This has created a huge burden on all residents of Rochester as well as Public Works and Parks crews.  Below are some helpful reminders to keep in mind as we continue to receive more snow.

The City of Rochester’s Public Works Department operates a fleet of snow plows that works to clear over 500 miles of roads, 9 miles of alleys, 544 cul-de-sacs, 40 miles of sidewalks and bike paths within the city limits of Rochester. This is no easy task and is a balance of safety, economics, timing and expectations. Effective snow removal creates safer roads for the traveling public and provides access for emergency vehicles during the winter snow and ice season.

Safety with High Snow Banks

We would like the traveling public to be extremely cautious when entering and exiting intersections, driveways, etc.  The snow banks along streets and at intersections are very high and can be a challenge to see around.  We advise to take extra precautionary measures when pulling out at intersections.

Bus Stops

Property owners are asked to pay special attention to clearing snow from sidewalks near bus stops so that transit riders with limited mobility can safely board the bus. Commercial property owners with bus shelters on or near their property should clear snow to allow access to the shelter from both the sidewalk and the street, and are asked to apply a sand/salt mixture when needed so their residents, customers, and other transit riders can safely use the shelter facility.


When possible, plows clear snow in front of mailboxes to allow USPS to deliver mail.  However, with the large accumulation of snow Rochester currently has, it can become difficult for plows to clear close enough to mailboxes without causing damage to the mailboxes.  It is the resident’s responsibility to keep their mailbox accessible for USPS deliveries.  The Public Works department does not have the resources nor work direction to be dispatched to remove snow in front of private mailboxes. 

Garbage Cans:

It is against City ordinance to place garbage bins in the street (73.02 sub 2). Bins must be placed behind the curb or road edge such as in the boulevard or driveway approach – garbage truck arms are able to reach these areas without an issue.  Bins placed in the street create additional obstacles for the snow plow drivers. Drivers have to plow around the obstacles, which leaves snow farther out in the street in front of the driveway and causes more shoveling for the homeowner and may result in bins getting knocked over.  The City does not accept responsibility for knocked over cans or damage as a result of improperly placed bins.  Residents are also reminded to promptly remove their cans from the side of the street once pickup has occurred.


Cars parked on City streets create obstacles for snow plows and greatly decrease the effectiveness and efficiency of snow removal operations.  City Ordinance states vehicles are not allowed to park on the street for more than twelve (12) consecutive hours in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the snow plow operations. Violations are subject to a parking ticket and a possible towing.  However, if you have off-street parking, please utilize it and get all vehicles off the streets during a snow event.  Parked cars, once moved, leave an accumulation that can be hard to remove and may remain for days after the car has been moved as Public Works does not have the resources to patrol around the City looking for moved cars.  If you must park on the street, be sure to park as close to the edge of the street as possible and don’t park right across from another car, which may make the street impassible for snow plows or other emergency vehicles.

Cul-de-sac Snow:

Residence that live in cul-de-sacs will see the already large piles of snow continue to grow with the large amount of snow forecasted through the next several days. We are already experiencing a shortage of space in the cul-de-sacs to store the snow therefore we will not be enforcing the sidewalk snow removal policy on the walks that get covered by the plows making enough room for residence to safely use the street. Once our snow and ice team has finished our standard snow removal in the central business district, parking lots and bridges we will concentrate our efforts on removing snow in cul-de-sacs and corners. Removing snow in the over 500 cul-de-sacs will take several weeks to accomplish so thank you for your patience.

Private Snow Removal:

With all of the snow Rochester has received, residents who shovel their driveways are probably wondering where to put all the snow?  Boulevards that fall within the City right of way are intended for snow storage from the street.  Residents should consider shoveling or blowing snow from their driveways into their yards as snow from the City streets will continue to be pushed into/onto the boulevard area.  Residents should also expect multiple plow passes and some snow from the boulevard falling onto their sidewalks.  If possible, it is best to wait to shovel until the street has been cleared to the full width.  If residents choose to shovel before the plows have completely cleared the streets, they should expect to have to clear the end of their driveway and possibly remove some accumulation from their sidewalks that may have overtopped the boulevard.

What Should the Public Expect for City Streets?

The main priority for plowing City streets is main roads, the central business district, hills, bridges, bus routes and around schools. Once those areas are clear resources will be directed to other lower volume streets. While main roads may be taken to bare pavement, this is neither feasible nor necessary on lower volume and residential streets.

Snowfall amounts also affect the level of service that is provided.  For snowfalls approximately 2” and less, the main priorities listed above are plowed with plows continuing to work into residential areas as time allows.  For these low snowfall events, not all streets will be plowed, namely dead end streets, cul-de-sacs, etc.  For larger snowfalls in excess of 2”, all streets within the City will be plowed to full width, generally within 24 hours of the storm. 

While the safety of the motoring public is at the forefront of the snow removal operations, driver responsibility is essential when navigating public roadways during the winter months. During and immediately after a winter storm, the reasonable speeds at which motorists can travel will be lower than the posted speed limit. As such, motorists can expect some inconvenience and will need to factor in additional time in order to safely reach their destination.

The Use of Salt and Sand on City Streets

Excessive use of salt can have major impacts on the environment. Deicing chemicals not only can have detrimental effects on grass, trees, and landscape vegetation, but also are carried away by stormwater runoff and can become a permanent pollutant in our water bodies. It only takes one teaspoon of salt to contaminate 5 gallons of water.

In order to not over apply deicing chemicals, all plow trucks that are used for snow and ice fighting are outfitted with calibrated computers that control the amount of materials placed on each roadway during the various types of winter events. Our standard practice is to use deicing chemicals on main roads, emergency routes, steep hills, curves, and in the central business district. Deicing products are used sparingly on all other low volume streets, which include most residential streets and intersections, to allow safe travel.

Salt or salt brine is used when pavement temperatures are above 15⁰F. When the pavement temperatures fall below 15⁰F the effectiveness of salt is dramatically reduced. At these times our crews will revert to using a mix of salt-sand to treat the roadways. Utilizing salt-sand during the winter months also has its implications: it not only gets washed into our water bodies during runoff events but it is very expensive to clean up in the spring time.

Reminder to Property Owners:
When snow is here, you have 24 hours to clear! Winter can be a difficult time for pedestrians using sidewalks and paths to safely access transit, schools, work, and maintain an active lifestyle. Rochester City Ordinance 72.02 requires property owners with a public sidewalk or path abutting their property to fully remove snow and ice within 24-hours after a snowfall. The full sidewalk width must be free of snow and ice and pathways must have a clear path that is at least 5 feet wide. Learn more about the ordinance.