NOTE TO ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Street Department crews will be on hand for b-roll of snow prep (only) at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, December 16, at 4040 Whitaker Avenue. The onsite contact is Chief Highways Engineer Stephen Lorenz.
PHILADELPHIA – With a storm approaching, the Streets Department and other City departments are preparing for brining, snow removal and related operations.
The current forecast is very dynamic. Per the National Weather Service, the forecast has been slightly downgraded from 4-8 inches to 3-6 inches, although higher areas of elevation can still expect over 6 inches of snow. Snow is expected to begin Wednesday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and pick up at around 4 p.m. The heaviest snow is expected between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday, before transitioning to rain/sleet temporarily and eventually returning to snow. Snow will intensify in the evening and is expected to end Thursday morning.
As a result, snow is expected to impact both the Wednesday evening and Thursday morning commutes. In addition, temperatures are expected to be in the 30s Thursday through Saturday. Temperatures near freezing could impact how quickly snow will melt and snow operations’ ability to quickly clear snow and ice.
“Crews will continue snow operations until all conditions are safe for travel,” said Managing Director Tumar Alexander. “However, this storm is expected to bring heavy snow and high winds. Residents should be mindful of fallen tree limbs and possible power and signal outages. Our goal is to make roads passable and return the city back to normal operations as quickly as possible.”
The Plan: Streets Department crews have been prepping equipment since Monday. One hundred pieces of equipment are expected to be mobilized during the snow event. Crews initiated brining operations Tuesday morning and continued through 6 p.m.
The Streets Department’s current plan is to utilize a Highways/Conditional deployment which includes treating primary and secondary streets throughout the city. Crews will also treat bridges and residential streets in areas of high elevation/hilly areas like in the Manayunk section of the city.
The Department anticipates initiating a salting operation Wednesday as the storm dictates on all primary and secondary streets, bridges and areas of high elevation. Full deployment of additional crews and equipment is contingent if additional snow accumulations occur. The Streets Department has 50,000 tons of salt available.
- Do not shovel or plow snow into the street. This practice is illegal, unsafe and hinders snow operations.
- Clear a sidewalk path at least 36 inches wide within six hours of the end of the storm.
- Clear snow from neighborhood sewer drains to allow melting snow to drain.
- Motorists should allow extra time, exercise patience and maintain safe driving distances.
Sanitation and Recycling Collections: Wednesday trash and recycling collections will be picked up tomorrow. As the forecast changes, we are currently evaluating Thursday and Friday’s collection schedule. An announcement will be made tomorrow to determine if we are going to change collections for Thursday and Friday. Delays are contingent on the severity and length of the storm.
Information for Businesses: All property owners and/or tenants are responsible for clearing a 36 inch path on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within six hours after the snow has ceased to fall—even if the establishment is temporarily closed due to snow or COVID-19 restrictions.
Establishments with outdoor dining will need to take additional precautions in advance of the storm. All outdoor dining setups should be secured, removing as much of the setups as possible—including tables, chairs, heating equipment, temporary structures. As noted in the City’s winter guidelines for outdoor dining, the City is not liable for any damage from plowing or snow removal, even if structures are permitted. Materials should be cleared from the right of way as much as possible to avoid possible damage and blocking of dining setups. Restaurants with unpermitted structures are reminded that their establishment is liable for any injuries suffered due to damage from the structure during and after the storm.
While the City is not mandating business closures related to the impending storm, businesses are strongly encouraged to consider early dismissal or closure in the interest of their staff.
City government offices are scheduled to remain open during normal business hours on Wednesday and Thursday. Supervisors are urged to offer flexibility for employees.
Food Sites: No updates at this time. The City will provide updates when they are available.
Access Centers: Access Centers will close at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16 and will be closed for the full day on Thursday, December 17. The Access Centers anticipate returning to normal schedule on Friday, December 18. Caregivers of students will be called by program staff to inform them of this change.
School District of Philadelphia: With all students in 100 percent digital learning, the School District of Philadelphia will not have to implement a ‘snow day’ and cancel classes. All students are expected to log in to their classes at their normal times. All Family Technology Support Centers, District headquarters at 440 North Broad Street and all school buildings will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday, December 16 and 17. This will allow for the safe clearing of snow from all roadways and walkways on District properties. At this time, “Grab-and-Go” meals will be available at the District’s 63 school distribution sites as scheduled for this Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If it is determined that weather is causing issues that could prevent the effective execution of instruction or learning, such as power outages, the District will make the necessary adjustments to its instruction and learning plan and communicate such to our staff, students and families.
City-run Testing Sites: COVID testing sites may be closed due to the inclement weather. The Health Department recommends calling ahead to ensure that the sites are open or to learn if they are operating with different hours.
SEPTA will post real-time travel updates at septa.org and @SEPTA on Twitter.
PHL International Airport: Travelers and those picking up travelers are encouraged to check their flight status before leaving for the airport on Wednesday and Thursday. Call your airline, get updates at 1-800-PHL-GATE, or check the PHL International Airport website—phl.org.
Call Centers Open: The Philly 311 Call Center will remain open during normal business hours on Wednesday and Thursday (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.) to take calls for non-emergencies. Requests for salting and plowing will not be taken during the storm. Once the storm has moved on, the City will announce when such requests will be taken.
Water Service Issues: The Philadelphia Water Department’s customer contact center (215-685-6300) will be open. Residents are encouraged to shovel snow from the fronts of fire hydrants and storm drains on their block to allow snow melt to drain to the city sewer system.
Homeless Outreach: The Office of Homeless Services issued a Code Blue beginning today Tuesday, December 15 at 3 p.m., and it will remain in effect until further notice. Throughout the Code Blue, Philadelphia’s homeless outreach teams will patrol the streets in greater numbers, urging individuals experiencing homelessness to come indoors and avoid prolonged exposure to the elements amid dangerously cold temperatures. People do not need ID to enter shelters, and they can remain indoors throughout the duration of the Code Blue. If you are concerned about someone who is homeless, please call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984 at any time. Outreach is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. First responders can also transport people to shelter for their own safety. Review the Safer Shelter Initiative to learn how City-funded, privately operated shelters keep residents and staff safe.
Pet Safety Awareness: Residents should contact the ACCT Philly hotline (267-385-3800) if they observe a dog outside during extreme cold (aside from bathroom breaks and short walks). It is against City ordinance to leave dogs outside in extreme cold without proper shelter, and owners can be fined up to $500.
Philadelphia Prisons: All Philadelphia Department of Prisons facilities remain closed to civilian visitors due to COVID-19 precautions.
The Department of Parks & Recreation reminds residents that if a tree falls during a storm and it’s blocking a road, or it has fallen on a house, car or other property, call 911. A crew of arborists from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation are on-call to respond to tree emergencies and they will come out to remove the hazard and any part of the tree that is an immediate risk to public safety. Other parts of the tree that don’t pose an immediate risk (such as tree trunks and stumps) will be removed at a later time so crews can focus on other safety hazards around the city during extreme weather events. In the event that a tree has fallen on electrical wires, please call PECO’s emergency line: 1-800-841-4141. For other non-emergency downed trees, residents can submit a request through Philly 311.
- Tune to local news for weather updates.
- Sign up for emergency alerts and weather updates from ReadyPhiladelphia at www.phila.gov/ready.
- For more winter weather tips, visit the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management online at www.phila.gov/ready.
- For official updates from the City, follow @PhilaOEM on Twitter or Facebook.
- Other City Twitter accounts to follow for information: @PhiladelphiaGov, @Philly311 and @PhilaStreets.