How We Plow
Winter in Missoula can be long and unpredictable. During the heart of the winter season, Street Division crews plow snow and apply deicer and sand around the clock to keep streets as safe as possible.
Crews begin plowing snow once 2 inches of snow accumulates on the streets.
The Street Division’s Snow Removal Priority Plan outlines the order in which our crews plow the streets. The priorities are determined according to safety considerations, public transit reliability, and community accessibility.
- Priority 1 Routes
- Priority 1 streets include arterial streets, school bus routes, and transit bus routes.
- They are plowed first and are shown in red on the Snow Removal Routes Map.
- Driving lanes and bike lanes are plowed first.
- The goal is to have all Priority 1 streets plowed and deiced within 48 hours after it stops snowing.
- Our ability to achieve this goal depends on how much snow we get and how long a snow storm lasts.
- Priority 2 Routes
- Priority 2 streets are collector streets, fire routes, Neighborhood Greenways, and local streets with 8% or steeper grades.
- They will be plowed once Priority 1s are completed.
- Our goal is to have a Priority 2s cleared and deiced with 96 hours after the snow stops.
- Local Streets
- Local streets will receive immediate snow removal service once 2+ inches of snow accumulates.
- We have five pickups with mounted plows that are assigned to specific areas for snow removal.
- Crews vary where they start in each residential area so that each side of an area gets to be cleared first. So, for one snow event a street may be cleared first, but during the next snow storm, that street may be last.
- Crews plow between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Weekend plowing may be done in response to severe events resulting in an accumulation of 6 inches or more of snow within 24 hours.
- City crews will not remove snow berms deposited in front of driveways, mailboxes or around cars parked on streets unless the berms are substantially higher than adjacent berms.
- The larger plows will assist in clearing local streets once all Priority 1s and 2s are done.
- The goal is to have all local streets cleared and deiced within seven days after it quits snowing.
- Additional Cleanup Work
- After driving lanes, bike lanes, and middle turning lanes have been cleared on all three routes, units may return to do additional cleanup work.
Deicer will generally be applied as streets start to get slippery and vehicles begin having difficulty getting traction. Pre-application of deicer will be used when advancing storms can be accurately predicted.
Deicing will begin with the Priority 1 streets unless an emergency request from the Missoula Police Department is received. When we receive such a request, the employees assigned to that area will sand or deice that location but will return to the priority route they were working on.
Liquid deicer application methods are regulated by ground speed controllers and are intended to control rates of application and apply deicer products at a rate not to exceed 30 gallons per lane mile.
The use of deicers is dependent upon temperature and street condition:
- Below 10°F, granular deicer chips or sand may be applied instead of liquid deicer.
- With snow accumulations of 2 inches or more, deicer will be applied only after the street is plowed.
Effective snowplowing on city streets is a cooperative effort by both the City's Streets crews and residents.
- Residents are required to place their shoveled and plowed snow on their own property and not in the bike lanes or the street. This is in accordance with Missoula Municipal Code. This also applies to contractors clearing parking lots or other private property—Do not push snow into the street or bike lane.
- Keep fire hydrants clear—When shoveling snow, residents must not place snow on or around fire hydrants. Instead, make sure the hydrants are clear of snow so that they are accessible by Fire Department and Missoula Water staff.
- Residents to clear berms—The City depends on residents to remove the plowed berms in front of driveways, cars, and mailboxes. We understand that clearing berms is inconvenient, but it is unfortunately a byproduct of snowplowing.
- If possible, please avoid parking on the main street.
- Your cooperation helps keep the streets safe for travel.
8 Deicer Plows
8 Sander Plows
1 Sander without Plow
5 Pickup V-Plows with Deicer Tanks
4 Front-end Loaders
3 Deicer Units
2 Snow Blower Loaders
1 Snow Blower with Snow Broom & Snow Blade (Bobcat)
City Streets crews perform snow removal on 337 miles of city streets that are divided into the following routes:
- Priority 1 routes—78.1 miles (23.1%) (196.8 lane miles)
- Priority 2 routes—105.7 miles (31.3%) (212.2 lane miles)
- County roads—4.3 miles (under agreement) (7.9 lane miles), and
Did You Know?
- The Street Division plows bike lanes:
- Washing your car every couple weeks during the winter, when temperatures allow, is a good practice to remove road grime.