Thursday, December 29, 2016

What to do when snowfall turns into windrows

Since snow stopped falling on December 25, crews have completed maintenance on Priority One and Two routes, which include major roads like Crowchild Trail and most bus routes. Crews continue working in accordance with The City’s Seven Day Snow Plan, which means plows are now in residential areas and playground zones.

On residential roads, you may see vehicles “flat-blading”, which means turning the blade under a sander downward to flatten the snow to a hard pack, so it is easier to drive on. Sometimes, this results in windrows, which many Calgarians have questions about.

What is a windrow?

According to The City’s Snow and Ice Control Policy, crews are mandated to maintain the driving lane on residential streets to a safe, reasonable winter driving condition. Crews do this by “flat-blading,” turning the blade under a sander downward to flatten the snow to a hard pack so it is easier to drive on. Flat-blading causes a continuous a build-up of snow along the side of a roadway, also known a windrow.

While this is good for motorists, the snow left over after crews have flat-bladed can create some extra work for property owners.

There is a windrow in front of my driveway. Who is responsible for clearing it?

The clearing of windrows in front of driveways left by snow plowing equipment is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, much like sidewalk shovelling. Plow operators make every attempt to keep driveways clear or keep windrows as small as possible, but any spillage that does occur is the responsibility of the property owner.

What does The City do about windrows?

City forces do their best to keep windrows small by evenly distributing the snow on either side of the road, however, after heavy snowfalls windrows can build up. Under extreme circumstances, if a windrow is impeding a resident’s ability to enter their driveway, a crew can come by and assess the windrow and remove if required.

Citizens should contact 311 if they have concerns about a windrow.

Visit for more information on how The City clears snow.


  1. So archaic. Your employees do not make any attempt to keep these windrows to a minimum. And by the time the resident returns, they could be solid windrows and you need an ice chipper to remove them. Look at what Winnipeg does, Buy some front end loaders and have them follow the graders. I cannot believe in this day and age that a city this large relies on residents to do the work their tax dollars pay for.

  2. I have to agree with Ross that if a property owner is not at home, by the time they do get home any windrow is frozen solid & takes considerable effort to remove. This is fine for the physically fit, but if the homeowner doesn't have the strength or the stamina to chip out the windrow it can cause access problems. We need to rethink how this is done.

  3. Some of these windrows are 3-4 feet wide and pretty soon we will have one direction roads in some areas, compromising safety for all. The City has not cleared the windrows in front of the bus shelters, so passengers have to climb an 8-12" high pile of snow to get into the bus. The bus driver I had yesterday had to deny access to a wheelchair passenger because they couldn't get the ramp down to ground. When I stepped off the bus I just about dislocated a hip because I sunk into the snow at the side of the road, which was created by the graders. There was no other clear space for the driver to stop except in the middle of the road. This morning, Calgary Transit had only cleared a small part of the sidewalk in front of each bus shelter in our area. Why not pick up the snow as they grade it? This would likely be better than spending twice as much time resulting in more man hour costs, breaking it down when it's rockhard and not as easily picked up.

  4. I don't have a driveway so my concern is when the City cleans the streets in the residential areas and they leave a big windrow beside the cars parking on the street making impossible to go out. We level the big pile of snow with a spade taking a lot of effort and time, to find a few hours later that we are in the same situation.
    When I visited the City of Chicago, the way they do it over there make more sense, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they remove the snow in the houses with even numbers and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the houses with odd numbers, because this mandatory, the residents living in the even numbers will park in the opposite side and vise versa.
    This is also cost effective as there is no need for signs for snow roots. Also the citizens are more satisfied. I think could work in Calgary.

  5. I always dread the site of plows on my avenue in Hillhurst (just east of 18th St). Before they come, the street is always in very reasonable shape for driving cars of all types. When they leave, that is still true, but what's changed is only for the worse -- namely, parking on both sides of the street becomes far more problematic. I am convinced the current policy needs a review; there are presumably residential streets that have a need for plowing, but how many are actually made worse by plowing (like mine) or is the improvement so marginal it's not worth the expense. Dollars are certainly being flushed down the drain on streets like mine.

  6. My concern is my parents are both seniors and have to shovel this to get out of there driveway... my dad is 8r and my mom is disabled out there shoveling cause of almost this thanxs for more stress ....

  7. I also cannot understand why it is the practice of some homeowners to shovel all the snow from there driveways/approaches to piles on each side of the driveway. This eliminates almost all street parking and greatly reduces the width of the roadway. In Coventry Hills some of these piles are really encroaching on the road, making passing buses and school buses extremely difficult. This snow could all be piled on their lawns with just as much ease. I have never seen this practise in any other city I have lived in! The city really needs to review these issues

  8. The city needs to take more care in not pushing snow onto freshly cleaned sidewalks. Time and time again I've upheld my responsibility to clean the walks down to pavement only to have the city come and mess up 1/2 the walk again with snow and ice.