During the winter weather season, keeping Township roads safe and free of snow and ice is the
primary responsibility of the Forks Township Public Works Department. Hazardous road conditions
may result from a great variety of precipitation or weather events. These events include snow, sleet,
freezing rain, black ice, and frost. And within these categories there are additional varieties of effects.
Our mission is to keep streets as passable as possible during the storm and to clear the streets, curb to
curb, within 4 hours after the storm has ended. However, at times the Public Works Department faces
tricky circumstances or operational setbacks that hinder or neutralize our efforts. Even with the best
of intentions or sense of completion, spots may be missed or experience delayed attention. We
apologize for any such instances. In any case, motorists are advised to always account for the
conditions when driving during the winter season. During winter weather events, residents should
expect difficult travel and adjust accordingly, staying off the roads when possible or making
provisions in whatever ways necessary if travel is essential.
The Fork Township Public Works Department currently has 9 plow and salting districts, each is assigned a dump truck with spreader. Most Forks Township plow trucks are yellow; few are maroon and green. Forks Township has approximately 60 miles of road, so each plow truck driver is responsible for nearly 8 lane-miles of roadway (provided all trucks are up and operating). There is a general protocol the drivers follow in plowing or treating their assigned route. The main (arterial and collector) roads are cleared first, and then the minor (residential) roads. This provides for maximum attention on the areas of higher and faster traffic. This also ensures the most efficient, organized approach to plowing.
Responding to winter weather events requires mobilizing a suitable amount of resources to meet the actual need. If available indicators (e.g., conditions to the west, radar projections) clearly show an oncoming and imminent need, forces would be mobilized in anticipation of deteriorating conditions. Even in these circumstances, the time to mobilize usually results in a delay in treatment of the roads, so some road condition problems may develop.
In the absence of clear indicators, or during off-duty periods, the Town follows a protocol that initiates action at the earliest sign of deteriorating road conditions. On-duty Police Officers provide around-the-clock patrol coverage and notify the Northampton County Communications Center when conditions generally or at a particular location need treatment. The Communication Center notifies cognizant Public Works personnel who report to the Public Works Garage along with calling in the necessary number of crew members for the circumstances. Again, this process takes time and will result in some delay in the start of snow or ice removal efforts.
The approach to snow and ice treatment depends on the nature of the event. Sometimes the entire crew is mobilized and sometimes only one truck. Sometimes plowing and salting is required and sometimes only salting. The duration of the Public Works effort depends on the type of event. If plowing is required, snow must be plowed back to the curbline. This is necessary to ensure proper road drainage and in consideration for future storms requiring plowing. It should take each truck approximately two to four hours to pass through the route once, if snowfall is light and stops shortly after plowing begins. During a heavy, sustained storm, the driver will make several passes to keep roads passable and it typically takes about four hours after snow has ended to complete plowing efforts.
Forks Township Public Works employees are dedicated to providing residents the best snow and ice removal services they can with the manpower and equipment resources available. These individuals restrict their vacation plans during for the entire winter weather season to place themselves in an available status. During winter operations, these individuals tackle storm events that persist 24 hours and beyond. And when they are released after an event, they are typically greeted at home by their own personal snow removal needs.
More information on snow and ice removal operations, procedures and impacts is provided below in the form of answers to frequently asked questions or concerns from residents. Usually, there is a reasonable answer or explanation for such legitimate questions and concerns.
If the Township knew the storm was coming, you should have had the trucks standing by to
go out when it started.
I noticed plow trucks were not on the road until more than an hour after the storm began.
You should lay down some sand or salt before the snow starts.
Though the Township pays particular attention to weather forecasts in advance of storm events, the exact timing of the onset of an event is hard to pin down. In several cases, forecasted events haven’t even materialized. In many other cases, unanticipated or unforecasted problems arise. The bottom line is: forecasts are often unreliable in various ways.
In cases where forces are mobilized at off hours, there is frequently a delay between the onset of hazardous conditions and treatment of those conditions at every spot on every Township road. Motorists are advised to drive according to the conditions, even after treatment has begun.
Crew members called in or held over are entitled to a minimum amount of overtime whether or not they are utilized. Because of this, the Director of Public Works or Designee are careful to ensure that a need does or will exist before mobilizing forces to the degree deemed necessary.
Pretreating road surfaces with salt too far in advance of an anticipated event is generally not effective. First, because of the uncertainty of the timing and nature of the event, the salt treatment may have been unnecessary, or could be neutralized (e.g., blown off the road) during a protracted delay of the onset of frozen precipitation. It is usually more beneficial for road clearing efforts for the salt to be spread when and after it is clearly needed.
Who is responsible to clear snow and ice on the State roads?
The State of Pennsylvania DOT is responsible for snow and ice removal efforts on the following roads in Forks Township:
The State of Pennsylvania utilizes their own fleet of plow trucks to accomplish this effort.
The Forks Township crew did a lousy job.
Forks Township roads are in bad shape compared to ____________.
The Forks Township DPW crew is dedicated to snow removal. Forks Township DPW personnel forego vacation during the snow removal season so they are available to provide removal service. They also stay on the job as long as it takes to complete the job; this usually involves a few storms every year that require continuous coverage of up to 36 hours, and has involved storms that have lasted more than 48 hours. They do this with limited and sometimes no sleep, and then they return to their own homes to face private snow removal needs there.
Forks Township DPW personnel endeavor to provide the best snow removal service that conditions allow. There will be times when storms will exceed our capacity to keep up with the resources we have, or where equipment breakdowns will diminish our ability to respond. In these circumstances we will adjust and apply our resources to the effort in the best way possible.
There may be a reasonable explanation for observed differences in road conditions. The condition of roads during and after snow removal operations is affected by many factors. These include: type of precipitation or icing condition, rate of precipitation, air temperature, road surface temperature, change of temperatures during and/or after the storm, timing of start of snow/ice control operations, frequency of plowing passes, type of material spread, amount of material spread, when material was spread, amount of sun exposure, and amount of vehicular traffic. Motorists may see a relative difference in conditions based on one or more of these factors.
Poor road conditions during storm events are usually most related a rate of snowfall that exceed the crew’s capacity to keep up. Poor road conditions after storm events are usually most related to temperature dynamics and lack of sun exposure. Also, certain factors may have positive or negative affects depending on other conditions. For instance, heavier traffic tends to assist clearing efforts during snow events, but under certain temperature conditions, traffic during a storm could cause packing of the snow into a layer resistive to plowing. So, though heavier traffic tends to ultimately help with road clearing, this is not always the case during a storm. After a storm, traffic tends to accelerate melting and clearing of the road. The higher traffic volume explains why, in most circumstances, main roads will remain clearer during a storm and clear faster after a storm.
This does not mean that particular problems in our approach do not arise. The Forks Township Director of Public Works takes responsibility first for those problems that may be related to overall operations, such as timing of the start of removal. Decisions and judgments in these areas involve several important factors, such as public safety, cost, and contractual obligations. The Forks Township Public Works Director and/or his Designee take responsibility for any concerns residents may have with how snow plow drivers do their job. Residents should not confront drivers directly, but contact the Public Works Department at 610-438-2670 to file any complaint. The Director and/or his designee will receive the complaint and investigate and take action accordingly.
My Street always seems to be the last one plowed.
My Street hasn’t been plowed yet.
My Street was plowed hours ago and I haven’t seen a plow truck since.
There are always problems at this spot. Why don’t you clear it up sooner and keep it clear?
Because of the magnitude of main roads assigned, plow drivers frequently cannot get to every high traffic area before conditions deteriorate. And in particularly bad conditions (e.g., high snowfall rate), plow drivers may not even be able to keep up. In spite of continuous attention to their routes, conditions will deteriorate quickly between passes. Especially in these cases, the residential areas can expect to receive less attention until the storm lets up. As a result, the final condition of the residential areas may be worse than the main roads.
During storm events, the two-way radio is continuously monitored at the Public Works Department to communicate with the drivers. The Police and Communication Center monitor the same radio frequency and communicate with the PW Department as necessary. Thus, if a special need arises, drivers can be vectored in to spot treat the location. There have been cases when drivers have been pulled off their route(s) to aid another driver in such circumstances. Obviously, if this occurs, the assisting drivers will get behind in their own route(s).
Equipment is well maintained and operated, however, breakdowns do occur. Because of the number of trucks on the road during major events, it is typical that one or more will breakdown during the course of a long storm event. In these cases plowing delays are inevitable, and can be large depending on the magnitude of the equipment problem(s) and whether the unit can be repaired and return to its route.
Also, drivers need reasonable time to eat meals. Drivers seek opportune times to eat, if storm conditions allow, so that route conditions suffer as little as possible. In extended storms, drivers will need down time to rest. Drivers will typically not rest unless the event exceeds 36 hours, opting rather to stay on their routes to keep up with the storm.
Why do the plow trucks have to drive so fast?
Like all other vehicles, plow trucks are bound by posted speed limits. Beyond this, the goal is to get the snow off the street as expeditiously as possible. The speed of the truck is directly related to any combination of the following factors: 1) the volume of snow on the street, 2) the consistency of the snow, and 3) the height of the berms on the side of the street. The plow truck must travel faster to throw heavier and/or deeper snow over higher berms. Though within speed limits, there may the appearance that trucks casting snow are going fast, especially when plowing slushy accumulations.
I didn’t see the need for the driver to be plowing; I didn’t see any snow on the road.
Why are the plows still out? you guys are only out to collect extra overtime pay.
I’m a taxpayer...
Township crews are only mobilized at such time as they are needed for snow or ice removal on Township roads, and they are released as soon as road conditions allow. No effort is made to extend unnecessary or gratuitous overtime to employees. Public Works forces are mobilized to deal with real road hazards, as typically witnessed by on-duty Police Officers or other emergency services personnel and passed on to the Communication Center for notification of cognizant Public Works personnel.
There are two major explanations for continued plowing after the snow has ended.
It may be helpful to know that for an average winter weather event involving overtime, Forks
Township Public Works forces provide snow/ice removal at a cost of less than $50 per mile
of road, which includes all efforts through the course of the storm. This compares very
favorably with an average cost of about $50 - $75 for private contractor driveway plowing,
which typically amounts to one pass in and one out in thirty minutes or less.
The storm ended several hours ago. Why are the plow trucks still out?
Why did the plow truck come through my road so many times?
As a rule of thumb, drivers generally need about 4 hours to complete plowing after the snow quits. This includes pushing back the snow to the gutter line. Thus, several passes are needed to accomplish this. Again, main roads receive priority attention, and, particularly in large storms, they may be plowed more often to keep them open.
There was still ice and snow on the road after you got done plowing.
This is not always a problem, but can be a significant problem if certain conditions prevail. Sometimes conditions at the road surface promote snow packing, a situation where a hardened layer of frozen precipitation adheres firmly to the asphalt. Such conditions include transition from freezing rain to sleet to snow. This layer may also develop if the temperature drops rapidly during or right after the snow fall, and the residual salt is inadequate to prevent freeze-up. When this hard-packed layer exists, even the Townships’ heaviest scraper plows tend to ride up onto it, rather than scrape it off. In such cases, several days of sunshine or above freezing temperatures may be needed to loosen up and disperse this layer. Department personnel may have to return to retreat the areas in the interim, even several days after the event.
Why use road salt?
Salt is applied during the initial pass on the route to provide a base to prevent bonding of ice and snow to pavement. Once ice forms and becomes bonded to the pavement, it is very difficult to remove until favorable conditions prevail (e.g., warm temperatures, sunshine). Additional applications of salt are made as needed during the storm to prevent a bond and to improve safety and traction. A final treatment may be applied at the final pass to aid in melting snow and ice and prevents melting snow from turning to ice before the roads dry.
The driver is putting down too much salt. The driver is not putting down enough salt.
The amount of salt put down is a function of the nature of the storm event. In some cases, when air or surface temperatures allow, little salt may be required. In other cases, especially in icing/sleeting situations or protracted snowstorms, salt may be continuously spread to keep the roads passable. In most case a white residual will be evident after remnants of snow and ice melt and roads are dry. Department personnel have no interest in applying too little or too much salt. If drivers apply too little salt, the roads will not clear. Too much salt translates into unnecessary expense.
Why do you have to plow curb to curb?
The goal of plowing is to clear as much of the road pavement width as possible for two-way traffic, to provide adequate drainage for subsequent melting and/or rain, and to allow access to the mailboxes by postal carriers.
Why is snow piled in my driveway?
I already finished shoveling my driveway, and that plow truck came by again and plowed me in!
Why the excessive amount of snow in my driveway?
Will the Township remove the snow from the end of my driveway?
Snow is never deliberately placed in driveways. Snow cast into driveways and onto sidewalks is an unfortunate byproduct of a very necessary service we provide. When we plow a street we are simply moving the snow that is in the street off to the side of the street. There is no useful method which allows operators to stop the windrow of snow coming off of the end of the plow. The greater the amount of snow, the more snow that is deposited on the side. For example, if a 12" snowfall is pushed straight to the side of the street from the center line of a 28'-wide street, there will most likely be a 4' high berm.
Because snow removal includes pushing the snow berm back to the curbline, the final pass may occur some time after the center of the road had been plowed open. Those residents who completed shoveling before the plow makes its final pass may find additional snow in the end of their driveways. One suggestion to reduce the amount of snow pushed onto your driveway is to shovel snow near the parkway to the right side of your drive as you face the street. This reduces the amount of snow being pushed onto your drive. Ultimately, the Town does not assume the burden of removing snow from the ends of driveways that is placed there as the result of snowplowing efforts.
I live on a cul-de-sac and I get more snow in my driveway and on my property than anywhere else in town. Why?
Plowing cul-de-sacs is one the most challenging operations during a snow storm. Most properties on cul-de-sacs have frontages which are narrower than lots on a straight street. Therefore, snow must be pushed into a smaller space. Cul-de-sacs without islands contain even more area which needs to be plowed and, as a result, even more snow has to be moved to the side.
It is impossible to have the truck push snow into the center of cul-de-sacs for several reasons. Trucks are not designed or built to be articulated enough to push snow to the center; this applies to cul-de-sacs with or without islands. Centrifugal force causes the snow to move off the plow toward the outside of the circle. Also the center of most cul-de-sacs is an inappropriate spot for snow, not to mention icing problems that would result from melting snow in the center of cul-de-sacs.
Drivers do their best to avoid plowing cul-de-sac driveways in with excessive snow. But this requires finding open spaces between driveways in the cul-de-sac to place the snow. Depending on driveway locations, this may result in large mounds of snow in only one or a few spots in some cul-de-sacs.
Can I pay the Township to clear my driveway or sidewalk?
Who is responsible for clearing in front of my mailbox?
We plow the streets curb to curb, or as close as we can get. Whatever snow is left in front of mailboxes is the responsibility of the property owner to remove or at least make the mailbox accessible to the mail carrier. If we made a mistake and left an unreasonable amount of snow on the edge of the street, we will return and cut back as much as we can. Residents should evaluate the location of their mailboxes. According to postal guidelines, mailbox door faces should be nine (9) inches from the road edge to avoid contact with the plow; the bottom of the mailbox should be between 42" and 48" above the road surface. If your mailbox is installed per postal guidelines, very little further clearing effort on your part should be necessary at your mailbox to provide access for the postal carrier.
The large piles of snow at the corners of my street are so high I can't see oncoming traffic. Who is responsible for removing the snow?
If the piles cause a line of sight problem, the DPW will remove the snow to the extent the line of sight problem is eliminated. Following large snow storms, this may take some time and depend upon reports received from motorists to alert us to a particular problem intersection.
The catch basin on my street is covered with snow. Who is responsible to clear it?
The DPW, but any assistance by abutting property owners would help and would be appreciated. If a blocked catch basin is a problem for you, you may contact the DPW.
My Street is so narrow that 2 cars cannot pass side by side. What will be done?
This usually happens for 2 reasons: 1) a smaller truck with a smaller plow is used and it cannot move larger amounts of snow completely off the side of the street, or 2) property owners or their private contractors place snow in the street. Streets that are less than two travel lanes wide will be widened after the storm as crews and equipment are available. In some cases this may result in some snow being cast back onto already cleared sidewalks and driveways or placed back onto grassed areas.
I’m calling to report that the plow truck knocked over my mailbox.
Mailboxes may be damaged by direct contact with the plow or by the snow cast by the plow. The Public Works Department will repair damaged mailboxes only if damage is the result of direct contact with the plow; damage resulting from contact by only slush or snow will not be repaired, nor will damage resulting from improper installation, placement, or deteriorated condition of its post or support structure.
Accordingly, residents should evaluate the location and condition of their mailboxes. Mailboxes should be securely fastened to a sturdy post which is solidly anchored in the ground; residents should choose a mailbox assembly that will withstand exposure to the substantial weight of a heavy snow cast from a large plow. According to postal guidelines, mailbox door faces should be nine (9) inches from the road edge to avoid physical contact with the plow; the bottom of the mailbox should be between 42" and 48" above the road surface.
If damage is sustained to your mailbox during a plowing event, you may contact the Public Works Department at 610-438-2670. Department personnel will inspect the damage and evaluate the situation according to the above guidelines.
I’m calling to report that curbing was damaged/plowed up in front of my house.
I’m calling to report that my driveway was damaged by the plow.
Curbing and driveway lip damage is a normal result of winter season plowing efforts. The Department has no intention or desire to cause this damage, since damaged areas must be attended to in the spring. However, due to the nature of plowing efforts, some damage is inevitable. The amount of damage may vary greatly depending on the nature of the winter. In heavy winters, just the higher frequency of snow removal efforts increase exposure of curbing and driveways to damage. Also, in winters where snow is preceded by a consistent sub-freezing period, the depth of frost in the ground reduces curb damage by providing added stability behind the curb. If frost is minimal or not present (which is typical especially early and late in the season), the risk and incidence of damage is greater.
It is generally essential for drivers to push snow back close to the curb to keep drainage areas open and to prepare for further snow events. Therefore, drivers cannot avoid close calls with curb contact. There are many areas that are chronically vulnerable to curb damage, such as cul-de-sacs. It would not be uncommon for these areas to see damage more regularly.
If curbing along your property sustains damage, you may notify the Public Works Department at 610-438-2760 to report it. Your address will be added to a running repair list that will be used to track repairs. A list of location and length of damage is made to incorporate in the master repair list. Repairs typically commence late in the Spring and may continue into the Fall.
I’m calling to report that my basketball hoop [or other object at my property] was damaged by the plow.
Residents are advised that the placement of objects in Township roads and Township road right-of-ways are prohibited. These objects can be anything, but frequently are permanent or portable basketball hoops, fences, trees or shrubs. Residents are to receive written permission from the Public Works Director for placing any obstruction or object in a Township right-of- way. In particular, basketball hoops have caused damage to Town plow trucks during snow removal operations, and should not be anywhere near road right-of-ways during the winter season.
How do I report plow damage?
Contact the DPW by telephone at 610-438-2670. Describe the damage you believe we caused, the location on your property, and when you believe it occurred. We will investigate and if we determine we are responsible we will place it on a list to be repaired. If we believe we are responsible we will let you know.
Will my garbage be collected today?
When unsafe road conditions exist, residents should expect a delay in collection of their trash and recyclables. The Public Works Director or his Designee will authorizes such delay. The collection contractor will resume collection as soon as conditions allow. If conditions dictate, collection may be deferred. In these cases, and if conditions improve adequately, the contractor will make up the collection on the next day. If service is shut down, the Township will notify several local media outlets along with a notification through the Nixle System. In any case, residents may call Township at 610-438-2670 for status of garbage collection.
What can I do to help?
There are a few important ways residents can help snow removal operations.