Winter is almost here, which may or may not mean snow is coming our way over the next few months. We’re not in the weather prediction business, so all we can do is be prepared and encourage you to get ready for whatever this season may throw our way.
We’ve compiled some of the more frequently asked issues about winter in the guide below.
Snow removal is on top of everyone’s mind — we need to get around! We get complaints every year, but it’s important to know Fairfax County does NOT remove snow from most roads. The Virginia Department of Transportation has that responsibility in nearly every Virginia county.
Northern Virginia roads are divided into hundreds of snow maps, which are updated yearly. Using VDOT’s online snow plow tracker, you can check the status of your road and see what has been cleared. All VDOT plows and contract equipment have locators to track their position and progress.
Here are VDOT’s road clearing priorities:
- Interstates and most primary roads
- Snow emergency routes and heavily trafficked roads
- Other secondary roads and residential streets maintained by VDOT
Please contact VDOT for additional information (1-800-FOR ROAD (1-800-367-7623), TTY 711).
If a street within a townhouse, condominium or business/commercial complex is not posted with a state route number, it is a private street that is the responsibility of the homeowner/condominium association or property management company to clear. Please contact your association or the property manager for further information.
It takes a whole community to shovel snow and ice from sidewalks because Mother Nature may take her time to melt it — and your state and local governments simply don’t have the resources to clear sidewalks across 400 square miles of the county.
While not legally obligated, we need your help to keep sidewalks safe by clearing snow in front of residential or business property so that all pedestrians, especially school children, those with disabilities and the elderly, may walk safely.
Homeowner associations may require members of their communities to clear the private walkways abutting their property. Please contact your association or property manager for further information.
We recommend seven places to consider shoveling:
- The sidewalk in front of your home
- The sidewalk in front of vacant homes or homes where residents are unable to shovel
- Fire hydrants
- Bus stops (there are more than 4,000 in the county!)
- Sidewalks/paths that lead to schools or community buildings where snow has been removed
- Bike trails
- Storm drains
And be sure to check out these snow shoveling tips from VDOT:
We do plow a few roads in the county, but again VDOT and homeowner associations clear snow from most roads. Our snow removal efforts are first focused on a priority list of county locations such as police and fire stations, government centers and mass transit sites, and then followed by other facilities such as libraries. Learn more about county government snow removal:
You may remember Jan. 20, 2016. It was a few days before the blizzard struck with 30 inches of snow. On Jan. 20, a small amount of snow fell at just the wrong time for the evening commute, snarling traffic and stranding many people on the roads for hours.
To help our region prepare better and potentially avoid these horrific commutes, the local National Weather Service now offers Potential Winter Commuter Hazard Statements.
“There is a particular set of circumstances that all must come together to make a Jan. 20 type of traffic disaster come together,” says Chris Strong, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. “They are roads that are well below freezing, a small amount of snow, and rush hour traffic. When we see the possibility of these all coming together, with about a day of advance notice, we will now issue a Potential Winter Commuter Hazard Statement. These will be broadcast as a special weather statement over weather radio, posted on our webpage, and broadcast over our social media feeds.”
You can find out county government status updates this winter from a variety of sources:
- Twitter: @fairfaxcounty
- Facebook: @fairfaxcounty
- Fairfax Alerts
- Channel 16 TV crawl
- Emergency Information Hotline at 703-817-7771, TTY 711
- Local media
Also note: The three courts in the county make their own decision, but we will communicate that information through the tools above so you know whether you have jury duty, cases are postponed and if court services are available.
Our public school system determines its own operating status, which can be a separate and different decision than county government. Learn more about the school decision-making process.
Anyone can be affected by hypothermia if you don’t dress in layers and seek shelter when you can. Here are some warning signs of hypothermia:
However, not everyone in our county has a home, and therefore they are vulnerable to hypothermia.
The main thing to remember is to call the county’s non-emergency phone line at 703-691-2131, TTY 711, if you see someone at night who is unsheltered and you think could be at risk of hypothermia.
For more information on how you can help our vulnerable community, read this NewsCenter article.
Our temperatures are going to get really cold this weekend. If you see someone in need of shelter pls call our non-emergency number 703-691-2131. pic.twitter.com/AkbMsSeti9
— Fairfax County (@fairfaxcounty) December 7, 2017
Not seeing a topic listed above in this guide? Then check out these winter weather resources:
- Snow Day Camps for Kids
- Freezing Pipes and Plumbing
- Ice Skating
- People with Disabilities
- Power Outage and Food Safety
- Winter Storm, Snow & Cold
- Warming Centers
- Home Heating Assistance
- Alternative Heating Source Safety