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Winter Maintenance

Significant Weather Event

In the event of an extreme snow storm, which puts the public at risk, a "Significant Weather Event" may be declared by the Director of Public Works or designate.

What is a significant weather event?

As per Regulation 239/02 of the Ontario Municipal Act, a municipality may declare a significant weather event when a weather hazard, either forecasted or occurring, has the potential to pose a significant danger to users of the roadways in which they have authority. 

This declaration suspends the standard timelines required for municipalities to meet their winter maintenance objectives. All roadways and/or sidewalks are deemed in a state of repair with respect to snow accumulation and/or ice conditions, until the municipality declares the significant weather event has ended. 

In each case, during the course of a declared significant weather event, the standard for addressing winter maintenance is to monitor the weather and deploy resources to address the issue, starting from the time the municipality deems it most appropriate to do so. When the City declares an event has ended, standard timelines for winter maintenance activities then begin.

Conditions in which a significant weather event may be declared

  • Significant snow accumulation during a 24-hour period
  • Ice formation that occurs without warning from the weather forecast
  • High winds leading to blowing snow and large snow drifts
  • Freezing temperatures when de-icing operations will not be effective

The declaration of a significant weather event is not a notice of reduced service levels or a road closure. It is to notify the public that due to the forecasted or current weather conditions, caution is to be exercised when travelling on City streets and sidewalks, and that it may take longer than usual to restore the conditions back to a normal state of repair.

Declaring a Significant Weather Event

The City of Owen Sound will notify the public of a significant weather event with a media release.

Significant weather events remain in effect until the posted end time or until cancellation is issued.

Significant weather event declarations are not restricted to specific months.

During a significant weather event, all roadways and sidewalks are considered to be in a state of repair and in some cases be unsafe to use.  If you need to go out during these events please take every precaution and adjust your driving behaviour to match road conditions and potential hazards.

For the safety of everyone, the City of Owen Sound would also like to remind the community not to push snow from their driveways onto the road.

To help clear the roads of snow and ice, we use:

  • 4 plow trucks
  • 4 sidewalk machines
  • 2 graders
  • 1 loader/blower
  • 1 loader/plow

This equipment services and maintains:

  • 280 lane km of roadway
  • 100 km of sidewalks
  • 6 municipal/facility parking lots
  • Various walkways
  • Steps
  • Paths

As winter approaches weather conditions are monitored regularly, traction control materials are stockpiled, equipment is prepared for winter maintenance, and staff review routes and undergo training to prepare for the first snowfall. The first significant snowfall can be as early as October or as late as December. 

The City's Traffic By-law prohibits on street parking from December 1st to March 31st between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. or parking on a road in a manner that interferes with plowing operations. Plow operators need clear roadways to complete their routes safely and efficiently.

Under the Highway Traffic Act, residents are not allowed to deposit snow on the roadway. When clearing snow, pile it on your property - do not shovel it onto the sidewalk, onto the road, or across the road. This practice is dangerous because it covers the traction control applied to the roadway, which may cause motorists to lose control when driving through the snow pile.


Our winter road maintenance plan is based on the assumption that not all roadways need to be maintained at the same level of service. The level of service provided varies according to its role in the transportation network, and on other various services the City provides. To simplify the determination of levels of service, the road network has been divided into classes which determine the overall priority for snow clearing and ice control.


All sidewalks will be maintained in a smooth snow packed condition due to the limitations of the sidewalk clearing equipment to get down to the bare surface, unless specified otherwise.

When icy conditions exist, sanding/salting will be undertaken as soon as practicable after becoming aware that the sidewalks are icy.

Q : What streets are the first to be plowed?

A : The City's road network is divided into five (5) different classifications for winter maintenance purposes based on the average traffic and posted speed of the roadway. By having different classifications it allows City resources to focus their attention on heavily travelled roadways first. Once these primary roadways are completed, local residential streets are started. Dead ends and cul-de-sacs are lower priority and are the last to receive service.

Q : When is the plow getting to my street?

A : During an active snow event it can take between 6 to 48 hours to attend to all the roads in Owen Sound, so we ask for your patience and understanding that we are out there, maintaining the roads as best we can. The City of Owen Sound is geographically, a challenging municipality to maintain when focusing on winter operations. For example, weather conditions below the escarpment can differ considerably to areas that are above the escarpment.

Q : When is my sidewalk getting plowed? The sidewalk across the street has been cleared, why not mine?

A : As a priority, we try to service one side of the street on as many streets as possible. Heavily travelled routes and routes leading directly to schools are first priority. All other sidewalks are cleared after these primary sidewalks are completed, as manpower and equipment permit.

Q : What is a windrow and why can't the operator lift the blade in front of my house?

A : A windrow is a pile of snow on the side of a road that was created by snow plowing equipment. Snow must be pushed to the side of the street to clear the roadway for traffic.

Lifting the blade of the snow plowing equipment in front of a home to reduce the windrow is not allowed. Snow plow equipment is put into operation to clear the snow off the roadway, and in order for this to happen the blade must stay in contact with the road surface at all times.

Sometimes it is necessary to make several passes with snow plowing equipment during a storm. At other times it will be necessary to push back the banks to allow room for more snow and to provide room for drainage during thaw cycles.

Q : I have to get out of my driveway for work/appointment etc. and the street has not been plowed. What should I do?

A : During periods of heavy snowfalls there may be delays. It is always best to plan ahead. If you know it is going to snow, leave yourself extra travel time.

Q : What do I do if I have a medical emergency?

A : In the event of a medical or other emergency, call 9-1-1. During winter control, emergency services will coordinate with Public Works and we will work in cooperation with police, fire, and ambulance to make sure they can reach you.

Q : I am not physically able to shovel my driveway - will the City do it for me?

A : The City cannot clear snow from private property under any circumstance. You may be able to get assistance from a family member, a friend, or a neighbour. As well a number of private snow clearing companies will provide this service.

Q : Why doesn't the plow do a better job clearing snow from my cul-de-sac?

A : It is very difficult for an operator to maneuver large equipment in a cul-de-sac in such a manner to clear all the snow. One of the primary purposes of a cul-de-sac is to provide storage room for excess snow during winter operations. Snow that is piled up in the centre of the cul-de-sac will be scheduled for removal based on the availability of manpower and equipment.

Q : Why does the City place salt on top of the snow and then plow?

A : In addition to providing some traction improvement, the reaction of the salt mixture with the snow creates a brine solution at the road surface. This brine helps to break the bond between the snow/ice and the road and ultimately facilitates easier removal with snow plowing equipment. Generally, after the roads have received a treatment of salt, the snow plowing equipment are dispatched to remove the "slushy" snow. Since the blades of snow plowing equipment ride slightly above the road surface, the salt is not entirely plowed off the road.

Q : The snow plowing equipment came and went, but there are still roads that need to be plowed. Will they be cleared?

A : Yes. Not all neighbourhoods are completed at once, but all roads, streets, dead ends, and cul-de sacs will be cleared of snow based on the availability of manpower and equipment.

Q : I could not park in my driveway, so I parked on the road and I got a ticket. Why?

A : Parking on the street is prohibited during the winter between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. from December 1st to March 31st every year. The streets must be clear of parked cars for adequate snow clearing operations. Parking on the street could result in unsafe conditions. Please plan ahead and make other arrangements.

Q : I live on a corner lot.  Why does the plow put so much snow in front of my house?

A : Residents living on corner lots usually get a bit more snow deposited in front of their houses as there is a larger portion of roadway to be cleared at an intersection.

Q : What can I do to prepare for a snow storm?

A : Keep parked cars off the street so that plows can move through the streets more effectively. Use public transit whenever possible. When a snow storm is in the forecast you should ensure that you purchase any food, medication, and household supplies that you might need for the next 48 hours. Other tips can be found by viewing any of the following guides:

Q : My neighbour is placing snow from their property onto the road causing an obstruction, is there a by-law that regulates this? 

A : Yes, the City of Owen Sound’s Snow and Ice Removal By-law No. 2008-046 states that no person, firm or corporation shall deposit or cause to be deposited snow or ice upon any highway within the boundaries of the Corporation of the City of Owen Sound from any private property. Any person who removes snow from private property on to City property is subject to a fine set out in the Provincial Offences Act.  

Q : My neighbour is placing snow from their property onto my property, is this a by-law violation?

A : No, the City of Owen Sound’s Snow and Ice Removal By-law does not regulate snow removal from one private property to another private property. This would be considered a civil matter between both neighbouring properties and the By-law Enforcement Division could not provide assistance in this matter.  

Q : What is the parking restriction for the winter months in the City of Owen Sound? 

A : The Traffic By-law No. 2009-075 states that parking is prohibited on any highway between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. during the period December 1 to March 31.

Q : Who enforces the overnight winter parking restrictions since these are outside of the By-law Enforcement Division’s hours of operation?

A : The Owen Sound Police Service enforces the overnight winter parking restrictions; they can be reached at 519-376-1234 for non-emergency enforcement calls such as this

Q : I don’t have enough space in my driveway to park my vehicles during the winter. Where in the City can I park overnight during the overnight winter parking restrictions? 

A : There are designated and marked overnight parking stalls in Lots 5 and 9 which are available on a first come first serve basis. Only the designated stalls are permitted for overnight parking. If parked overnight in an unmarked parking stall, a parking ticket may be issued and/or the vehicle towed at the owner’s expense. An overnight parking permit must be purchased and displayed in a visible place on the vehicle while parking overnight in the designated stall. Overnight parking permits can be purchased at the Service Counter at City Hall and the Owen Sound Transit Terminal

Q : Are there any noise exemptions for snow-blowing my driveway early in the morning or late at night?

A : Yes, the City of Owen Sound Noise By-law No. 2001-034 has an exemption for noise created by the activity of snow removal. This applies to City removal of snow on roads as well as private properties

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