Snow Operations and Staying Open for Business (Opinon) |

Snow Operations and Staying Open for Business (Opinon)

Mayor Devin Middlebrook

This winter has been anything but normal. A very dry fall, record snowfall in December, and now back to dry in January. As we have seen in recent years, climate change is leading to crazy swings in weather and extreme storms. Knowing our winter is not even close to being over, we want to continue to share what services you can expect to see from the City during snow events and remind residents and businesses what their responsibilities are. The City is responsible for clearing city streets and trails and we work closely with CalTrans and El Dorado County to ensure coordinated snow removal across town.

Mayor Devin Middlebrook

First and foremost, our primary goals are to ensure public safety access, maintain a safe and efficient street and trail network, and protect public facilities. The City of South Lake Tahoe has a proactive and continuous Snow Operations Plan, which can be found on our website at, that addresses how we accomplish these goals.

Operational periods are typically two 12-hour shifts. For storms of higher intensity, operations include continuous 12-hour shifts until roads are sufficiently cleared. During this December’s storm, we deployed staff on a 24-hour operation for 18 straight days.

Plowing typically begins with arterial roadways, followed by collector streets, and finally, local roads to at least one lane for vehicle access. Bicycle trails, public parking lots, and public sidewalks will be plowed during the same period. Blowers will then be deployed to widen the roads and to remove berms. The operators will deploy gates to reduce snow berms in the driveway with low to medium snow events. When the snowfall exceeds 4-feet, unfortunately, the use of gates will not be effective, and the gates will not be deployed. Keep in mind, the City has over 255 miles of roadway and over 15 miles of bicycle trails which are plowed during each storm event. Severe storms will slow us down with downed trees, utility lines, and parked vehicles.

Going forward, we plan to expand the use of anti-icing and sanding operations for selected arterial and collector roadways before the onset of a storm. The treatment consists of a spray application of water and salt brine. The brine adheres to the road surface before precipitation begins, effectively lowering the freezing point of the treated area. This prevents snow from bonding to the pavement early in the storm cycle.

Residents and businesses can support our staff and help us successfully complete our operations by keeping their properties properly cleared of snow. By assisting in our ability to successfully complete snowplow operations, you also help us get our economy back up and running following more severe storms.

When our city shuts down, the ski resorts, local businesses, and supporting hospitality sector are always the first and hardest hit. The workforce that supports these industries is especially impacted when they cannot get to work, creating a domino effect of unintended consequences. The longer South Lake Tahoe is shut down, the more low-wage workers will struggle to pay for necessities and rent, further negatively impacting our housing crisis. Our local population and economy rely on the roads being open, jobs being accessible, and businesses continuing to operate. As a city, we must prioritize public safety during the event and get our community and economy open.

For updates during snow events, follow us on Twitter and Facebook @CityofSLT. If you have any comments or issues related to snow clearing operations, contact us at (530) 542-6030. If you live outside the city limits in El Dorado County, contact (530) 642-4909 for snowplow information. You can also check which jurisdiction plows your street on a new GIS map the City created at



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