Snow Removal

As part of its winter maintenance program the Public Works Department performs snow removal (plowing) on most county roads.  The County's policy on snow plowing has changed over time and has adapted to balance resources with transportation needs. Contrary to most perceptions, Oregon counties are not required to plow snow and therefore service levels across the state vary and generally match each agency's ability to provide the best service with the resources available. In addition to plowing, Public Works also applies a deicer material in strategic locations to prevent freezing and ice build-up, and also applies cinders or "sand" in various locations. These locations are typically on hills, curves, high-speed roads, and expanded locations after storm events when time allows. Typically, sand is not applied while it is still snowing.

The Hood River County Public Works Snow Removal Policy was reaffirmed in 2016, however, as resources continued to decline further modifications to the policy have become necessary. Most notably, plowing service has shifted from plowing all applicable roads once a certain snow depth has been reached to defining specific snow removal service levels that can be maintained, either throughout a specific storm event or throughout an entire winter season. Based on what information is available for an impending storm event, and depending what resources the department has available at the time, including the status of equipment and personnel, usable information can be provide to the public in real time to minimize travel disruptions. Additionally, in 2019 the department published an interactive Winter Maintenance Map that describes the different anticipated service levels and depicts which county roads get plowed under each one.

Similar to regular maintenance activities, the County is restricted from using State Highway Funds to maintain Local Access Roads, including activities such as snow plowing, unless specific criteria have been met.  Subsequently, and depending on which roads have been designated County Road status or how city streets may have been annexed, there are a variety of locations where "gaps" in plowing a road may occur.  Under current state laws, the County generally has the discretion to plow these gaps without violating any statutes or restrictions.  The most common justification is that it will save time, fuel, or other resources and will ultimately serve the best interest of the public.  However, these situations are rare, and without clear justification or the need to address a declared emergency the County will not plow Local Access Roads.

Residents are advised that the County does not shovel or clear driveways that become encumbered with snow due to plowing, nor is it responsible for ensuring mailboxes are accessible. While we realize this may cause an inconvenience to a homeowner or postal carrier, the department does not have the resources to provide snow removal services at this level. The primary purpose of plowing snow is to provide an open travel lane for the flow of traffic and commerce. Additionally, residents are also advised that it is illegal to park along a county road during snow accumulation, i.e., during a snow storm. This is to ensure that a snow plow or motor grader can service the road without encountering a hindrance or creating a danger by leaving a berm within a traffic lane. Vehicles left parked along a county road during a snow storm may be subject to towing at the owners expense by either the Public Works Department or the Hood River County Sheriff's Office.

County Public Works anticipates entering the winter of 2023-2024 between Service Levels “C” and "B", meaning primary roads are expected to be plowed daily and key areas sanded after it stops snowing, however, some primary roads may not be plowed for several hours past their historical plow times. Local and residential roads are not expected to be plowed the first day and may take up to 1-2 days before being plowed, depending on the amount of snowfall. Resources are not available to respond to individual requests for plowing and sanding, however, snowplows will be reassigned when needed for emergency service access. Be advised that Public Works does not clear driveways or from around mailboxes, regardless if snow was displaced by a county snowplow.  It’s recommended that all vehicles be supplied with tire chains or other traction devices and that travelers become familiar with using them. Please drive cautiously when snow or ice are on the road, avoid driving in inclement weather when possible, and always carry emergency supplies in case you become stranded.