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City of Cambridge

Snow Center

Tips and FAQs

How soon do residents/businesses need to remove ice and snow from sidewalks?

Ice needs to be removed within 6 hours from the time it forms, per City Ordinance. Snow needs to be removed within 12 hours after snow stops falling during the day and before 1pm if it snowed during the night, per City Ordinance.

Public Works and the Traffic Department work together to enforce this Ordinance. Parking Control Officers in the Traffic Department conduct enforcement on priority pedestrian routes throughout the winter, and Public Works Compliance Officers investigate all complaints received of uncleared sidewalk.

The fine for failing to comply with the City’s sidewalk clearance ordinances is $50/day for each day of non-compliance. Even if you aren’t around, it is your responsibility to ensure someone clears sidewalks and ramps next to your property.

We all have a shared responsibility for keeping our community safe and accessible during winter weather. For you, your neighbors, people with strollers or using wheelchairs, and the many people in Cambridge who walk, please do your part.

Report snow and ice issues to the City via our Commonwealth Connect system.

What does a "cleared" sidewalk look like?

We all have a shared responsibility for keeping our community safe and accessible during winter weather. How to be sure you are in compliance with the City's Snow and Ice Removal Ordinance:

  • Shovel your sidewalk on all sides of your property, down to bare pavement
  • Make the path wide enough for someone using wheelchair, walker or stroller (at least 3 feet, preferably 4 feet). Clear snow to curb to avoid placing trash and recycling containers behind snow banks. 
  • Clear snow to curb so that collection crews can access your trash barrels and recycling toters and they are not behind snow banks.
  • Clear ramps at corners and crosswalks.
  • Stock up on ice melter before a storm. Use ice melter with calcium chloride (CaCl2), which is the best choice for the environment and only a small amount is required to melt ice. Potassium chloride (KCl) is okay, too. Avoid rock salt (NaCl or sodium chloride), which kills plants and trees.
  • Do not use sand. It doesn’t help pedestrians; but it makes hard ice more slippery. It gets into street drains and is expensive to clean up in the spring.
  • Remember that, for people on foot, ice can be worse then snow. It can cause dangerous falls. You are as responsible for ice as you are for snow.
  • Keep street drains clear of snow (to avoid ponding/ icing at the bottom of ramps)
  • Consider helping neighbors who may have difficulty clearing their walk. Remember: pedestrians need safe, clear sidewalks all year long, so be mindful of anything—hedges, trees, parked cars— that obstructs their path of travel. Keeping sidewalks passable is the neighborly thing to do, and it’s the law.

The fine for failing to comply with the City’s sidewalk clearance ordinances is $50/day for each day of non-compliance. Even if you aren’t around, it is your responsibility to ensure someone clears sidewalks and ramps next to your property.

Report snow and ice issues to the City via our Commonwealth Connect system.

See below for examples:

Not in Compliance

Snowy Sidewalk

In Compliance

Cleared Sidewalk

Does the City provide salt for residents to use for melting ice?

The City provides salt for use by residents in several locations throughout the city. Please be considerate: take only what you need to get through the current snow or ice event.

Locations of Salt Barrels:

Fire Departments

  • Engine 1, Headquarters on Broadway
  • Engine 4, Mass Avenue @ Blake Street
  • Engine 9, Lexington Avenue

Libraries

  • Concord Avenue, at 245 Concord Avenue
  • Heritage Branch, at 48 Sixth Street
  • North Cambridge, at 70 Rindge Avenue

Other Locations

  • Area IV Youth Center, at 243 Harvard Street
  • Sleeper Park, at Cedar & Norris Streets
  • Cambridge Cemetery, at 76 Coolidge Avenue
  • Danehy Park Parking Lot, on Sherman Street
  • Lenny Russell Bridge, at Huron Avenue and Aberdeen Avenue
  • The following municipal parking lots: Lots 5, 6 (temporary lot), 12 (Warren Street), and Maccarelli Way

Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking Locations

During a declared snow emergency, vehicle owners are responsible for moving their cars off of streets signed "No Parking during Snow Emergency" and are subject to towing otherwise. To assist residents in parking their vehicles, free parking is provided in the off-street parking facilities indicated below. If an announced snow emergency will be in effect overnight and begins after 6PM and before 7AM, the designated parking facilities will be free starting at 6PM rather than at the start of the snow emergency. This free parking program is available only to Cambridge residents with Resident Parking Permits issued by the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department.

Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking Locations

  • Cambridgeside Mall - Enter on Cambridgeside Place, Between P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory Entrance. Cambridge residents can park for free in the Cambridgeside Galleria Garage from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted. Cambridgeside is a pay-on-foot automated parking facility, so there are no cashiers at the exits. Parking tickets must be validated prior to exit, with proof of Cambridge residency:
    • Between 9AM and 9PM, tickets can be validated at the Parking Office located on Level G1.
    • After hours, tickets can be validated at the Security Base located within the pavilion on Level G3.
  • First Street Garage - Enter on Spring Street. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted.
  • Green Street Garage, Central Square - Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted.
  • 52 Oxford Garage - This is a Harvard owned and operated garage. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted. Important -- vehicles parked in this garage must exit no later than two hours after the ban is lifted. Space is limited, and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. Harvard University reserves the right to cease admittance due to capacity limitations and operational issues.
  • 65 Waverly Street - This is an MIT owned surface lot at the corner of Sidney, Waverly and Erie adjacent to Fort Washington Park. Parking is free with a Cambridge resident parking permit from the start of the snow emergency until 2 hours after it has been lifted.
  • One Kendall Square Garage – Enter at 389 Binney Street. This is a privately owned garage next to the Kendall Square Cinema. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted  Note that Binney Street is currently one-way eastbound in this area.

Am I required to clear my sidewalk if I am elderly and/or have a disability?

If you are a homeowner on a low income and/or you are elderly or have a disability, you may qualify for the City’s Snow Exemption Program, in which case the City will shovel your sidewalk. To find out whether you are eligible, please call the Cambridge Council on Aging, 617-349-6220 (voice) or 617-349-6050 (TTY).

If you do not qualify for an exemption, the Council on Aging can provide you with a limited list of professional snow removal companies and a list of students who want to earn money by shoveling – you contact the student yourself and negotiate a price.

Report snow and ice issues to the City via our Commonwealth Connect system.

How can I find out if the City has declared an emergency parking ban?

When a snow emergency is declared information is available as soon as possible at 617-349-4700, posted on City's homepage, Snow Center, social media accounts, and on 22 CityView.

You can also sign up for CodeRed to receive snow emergency alerts via voice, text or email message.

View a list and map of streets where parking is prohibited during a snow emergency and locations where free parking is available during a declared snow emergency.

How can I find out if school is closed due to snow?

For information about school closings please check the Cambridge Public School's homepage at www.cpsd.us 

How can I report an icy/unshoveled sidewalk?

You can report the address of unshoveled or icy sidewalks using our online reporting form or by calling the snow hotline at 617-349-4800.

All reports will be inspected by Traffic or Public Works' staff, and a ticket will be issued if the property is found to be in violation of the Snow Ordinance.

Parking Information

Parking During a Snow Storm

In the event of a snow storm, remember these general on-street parking guidelines:

  • Always park at least 20 feet from the street corner. Parking this far away from the corner improves visibility and safety year-round and ensures compliance with the Cambridge Traffic Regulations, but in the winter it also allows plows to push snow away from crosswalks.
  • Think safety! Please do your part and dig out fire hydrants and street drains while digging out your car.
  • When digging out your car, think about how you pile snow; don't create new problems in the street or on sidewalks.
  • Please don't take it personally if Public Works plows push snow back into your driveway or parked car. It’s sometimes unavoidable in order to keep streets as passable as possible during all stages of the storm.

Parking During a Snow Emergency

It's important for the city to keep main roads clear for plows and emergency vehicles during extreme weather. You will be subject to ticketing and towing if you park on a a posted snow emergency route during a declared snow emergency.

Space Savers

It is illegal to ‘reserve’ cleared parking spaces. Objects left in on-street parking spaces may be removed when crews are available after a snow event or when a snow emergency has been lifted.

Snow Emergency Parking Ban Information

During substantial storms, the City may declare a Snow Emergency Parking Ban which prohibits parking on streets signed “No Parking during Snow Emergency.” When a snow emergency is declared, information is made available at 617-349-4700, the City's homepage and snow center, and on 22-CityView. To receive notifications about snow emergencies via e-mail, text message, and/or phone announcement (for any landline or cell phone in the city or elsewhere), sign up for Code Red through the Cambridge Alert Network. Every effort is made to give residents as much advance notice as possible of an impending snow emergency.

Approximately 100 streets in the City are signed "No Parking during Snow Emergency." When a snow emergency is declared, parking is restricted on these streets. Vehicles should not be parked at these locations and those that are will be ticketed and subject to being towed. Some streets are restricted on one side only and some on both sides. The City's tow priorities will be based on access needs, especially for emergency vehicles, and the type and duration of the storm.

Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking for Residents

During a declared snow emergency, vehicle owners are responsible for moving their cars off of streets signed "No Parking during Snow Emergency" and are subject to towing otherwise. To assist residents in parking their vehicles, free parking is provided in the off-street parking facilities indicated below. If an announced snow emergency will be in effect overnight and begins after 6PM and before 7AM, the designated parking facilities will be free starting at 6PM rather than at the start of the snow emergency. This free parking program is available only to Cambridge residents with Resident Parking Permits issued by the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department.

Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking Locations

  • Cambridgeside Mall - Enter on Cambridgeside Place, Between P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory Entrance. Cambridge residents can park for free in the Cambridgeside Galleria Garage from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted. Cambridgeside is a pay-on-foot automated parking facility, so there are no cashiers at the exits. Parking tickets must be validated prior to exit, with proof of Cambridge residency:
    • Between 9AM and 9PM, tickets can be validated at the Parking Office located on Level G1.
    • After hours, tickets can be validated at the Security Base located within the pavilion on Level G3.
  • First Street Garage - Enter on Spring Street. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted.
  • Green Street Garage, Central Square - Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted.
  • 52 Oxford Garage - This is a Harvard owned and operated garage. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted. Important -- vehicles parked in this garage must exit no later than two hours after the ban is lifted. Space is limited, and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. Harvard University reserves the right to cease admittance due to capacity limitations and operational issues.
  • 65 Waverly Street - This is an MIT owned surface lot at the corner of Sidney, Waverly and Erie adjacent to Fort Washington Park. Parking is free with a Cambridge resident parking permit from the start of the snow emergency until 2 hours after it has been lifted.
  • One Kendall Square Garage – Enter at 389 Binney Street. This is a privately owned garage next to the Kendall Square Cinema. Parking is free if you have a Cambridge resident parking permit from the time the declared snow emergency is in effect until 2 hours after it is lifted  Note that Binney Street is currently one-way eastbound in this area.

Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking Map

This map is designed to show Snow Emergency Off Street Parking Locations in Cambridge. Enter an address to find the closest garage near you. Click on the icon to get more information on that location and see the Snow Emergency Off Street Parking for Residents page for more details.

Snow Emergency Parking Restrictions Map

Parking is not allowed during a snow emergency on the streets highlighted on the map below. Enter an address in the box in the top of the map to get a close-up view indicating if parking is banned during a snow emergency at that location. You may also use your mouse to move the map and scroll in or out.

Useful Information

Important Contact Information

Name Phone Number
Cambridge Public Works 617-349-4800
Cambridge Traffic, Parking & Transportation 617-349-4700
Cambridge Police (Non-Emergency) 617-349-3300
Cambridge Fire (Non-Emergency) 617-349-4900
City Manager's Office 617-349-4300
Eversource 1-800-592-2000
Logan Airport 1-800-235-6426
MBTA 1-800-392-6100
MEMA 1-508-820-2000

Street and Sidewalk Safety

The City's Public Works Department will clear City streets and sidewalks as soon as possible. Our goals are to chemically treat all major arteries within three hours of when snow begins, to keep main arteries plowed during all stages of a storm, and to clear all streets and the sidewalks bordering City property once a storm has stopped.

Salting and Plowing

During a storm Public Works will deploy as many as 100 pieces of snow plowing equipment to begin clearing snow. Initially these plows are simply clearing a section of each roadway to allow for safe passage. As the storm begins to wind down, these same vehicles will continue in their assigned routes, pushing snow as far back to the curb line or line of parked cars on all of the City streets. From the start of the storm and usually well into the next day, we will push back snow many times on the same streets to clear snow to the maximum extent possible.

To make a street plowing/salting request, please call the Operations Center at 617-349-4800 or use our online form to report the location.

Pedestrian Operations

Public Works clears over 23 miles of sidewalk areas including those around schools, public buildings, parks and high volume bus stops. The City shares responsibility with the MBTA in clearing bus stops. If you have questions or concerns about specific stops, please contact us.

Pedestrian areas to be cleared are those areas surrounding City buildings, major squares throughout the City including Harvard, Central and Porter, and sidewalks and pathways surrounding City parks.

What Can You Do?

During winter, please clear snow to curb so that collection crews can access your trash barrels and recycling toters and they are not behind snow banks. Please also help make streets and sidewalks accessible for all pedestrians during winter by removing snow and ice and reporting unshovelled or icy sidewalks. Together, we can keep Cambridge a walking city all year long.

Storm Preparation Tips

  • You don't know when the next emergency or disaster will occur or what it will be, so take some time to make a plan of what you and your family will do during emergencies. Your family may not all be together when an emergency occurs, so you should Create a Family Communications Plan. In addition, Create a Plan to Shelter in Place, and Create a Plan to Evacuate to keep you and your family safe whether you "stay" or "go".
  • If you heat your dwelling with oil, check to make sure that you have enough home heating fuel to get through the storm.
  • Make sure your heating equipment and/or fireplaces have been serviced by a professional.
  • Install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of your home.Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Remember, if the smoke detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911. 
  • Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are current and operating properly.
  • If you have medical conditions, make sure you have a supply of necessary medications.
  • To be prepared for a possible power outage, stock up on batteries, flashlights, and canned goods and bottled water.

Essential "Building" Items to Keep Clear of Snow

Business, apartment building, and home owners should make certain to check essential building items, in addition to sidewalks, have properly cleared of snow and ice. The following items are essential to the overall safety of buildings and their occupants and should be cleared as soon as possible:

  • pedestrian accesses
  • emergency exits
  • fire department sprinkler connections
  • Master Boxes
  • gas and electric meters
  • heating ventilation systems
  • overburdened roofs.

Roof Collapse Safety Tips

Homeowners, tenants, and businesses should be cognizant of the danger posed by heavy snow loads on roofs, and the importance of recognizing the warning signs of potential structural weaknesses. In many instances, the risks posed by accumulated snow can be mitigated by safely removing snow from roofs. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations.

To safely remove snow from roofs, the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), DFS and MEMA recommend the following tips:

DO

  • Use a snow rake for pitched roofs (available at most hardware stores) to remove snow from your roof.
  • Start from the edge and work your way into the roof.
  • Try to shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to your shingles or other roof covering.
  • Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires
  • Plastic shovels are usually best. Metal tools may cause damage to your roof.
  • Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing the snow over the side, away from the building.
  • Remove large icicles carefully if they're hanging over doorways and walkways. Consider knocking down icicles through windows using a broom stick.
  • Protect utilities meters and piping from falling snow, icicles, and melting water.
  • Wear protective headgear and goggles when performing any of these tasks.
  • Consider hiring professionals to do the job. The combination of heights plus ice makes this one of the more dangerous house chores. If you choose to do the task yourself, have someone outside with you to assist.Keep gutters and drains clean, free of ice and snow and keep downspouts clean at ground level.

DON’T

  • Unless approved by a registered professional engineer, don’t add your weight or the weight of equipment to the roof.
  • Don’t use a ladder since ice tends to build up on both the rungs of the ladder and the soles of your boots.
  • Don’t use blow torches, open-flame, or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.Don’t try to remove ice or icicles from utility wires or meters. Call your utility company for assistance.

Common Signs of Roofs Experiencing Problems

  • Sagging roofs
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

What to Do if You Have Problems

  • If you notice any signs that you have a problem with your roof, or suspect a gas leak, leave the building immediately without touching light switches and call 9-1-1 from safely outside the building.
  • For general questions, call the Inspectional Services Department or the Cambridge Fire Department business line. It is recommended that you hire a licensed contractor to remove snow from your roof.

Shoveling Snow Health Hazards

The American Heart Association says that for most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems. However, the association warns that the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some, stating that the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart. People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

Snow Blowers Safety Tips

  • Always start your snow blower in a well-ventilated area to avoid possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you haven’t used your snow blower in a while, remember that gasoline may still be inside from the last time you used it. Gasoline is only good for about 30 days, unless you’ve added a fuel stabilizer.
  • Always make sure that the snow blower is completely turned off before replacing any parts.
  • Fix clogs carefully. If your snow blower becomes clogged, turn it off, and remove the key before trying to clear it. Use a stick and NOT your hands to clear debris.
  • If your snow blower hasn’t been checked up by a professional in a while, have it serviced before you use it.

Heating System Safety Tips

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • NEVER use your oven for heat.
  • NEVER bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).
  • Liquid or gas-fired portable space heaters are illegal in Massachusetts.
  • Use electric space heaters with extreme care; avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials and turn them off before going to bed.
  • Make sure all portable heat-producing appliances are unplugged when not in use (irons, hair devices, etc.).
  • NEVER leave candles unattended.
  • Keep dryer vents clear of snow and ice.
  • If gas and oil appliances and heating systems are not installed correctly, working well, or cleaned and serviced regularly, they can be sources of Carbon Monoxide exposure. Winter is a particularly dangerous time for CO poisoning. Common CO sources include:
    • Space heaters
    • Blocked flue pipes
    • Fireplaces
    • Cars and trucks
    • Gas ranges and ovens
    • Clothing dryers
    • Gas and oil heating systems
    • BBQ grills

Power Outages Tips

  • In case of a power outage, stock up on batteries, flashlights, and canned goods.
  • Avoid using candles during any power outage
  • If power is lost, unplug all appliances except one lamp to prevent power surge damage.
  • Keep refrigerators closed as much as possible and keep temperature at 45° or below. Food will stay fresh for between 36-48 hours in a full fridge; 24 hours in a half-filled one.
  • Keep a battery-operated radio, extra medicine, blankets, and bottled water on hand.
  • Report power outages to Eversource at 800-592-2000

Preventing Frozen Pipes Tips

  • Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Check for open windows, air vents, and wind drafts near water pipes.
  • Seal leaks in the basement foundation where cold air may enter. Stuff holes with insulation. A tiny opening may cause an exposed pipe to freeze.
  • Locate the main water shut off valve in your home and mark it for quick identification. Learn how to turn it off, and educate others in your household. If a water pipe bursts, shutting your home’s main valve quickly will minimize flooding and property damage.
  • Leave kitchen/sink cabinet doors open if pipes are subject to freezing. This will allow heat to reach the pipes.
  • Don’t use an open flame to thaw pipes. If your pipes do freeze, use a hair dryer or rags soaked in hot water to thaw lines.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated spaces like garages, basements, and crawl spaces. This will help prevent frozen pipes, avoiding property damage and the costs of repairs. Additionally, insulating hot water pipes will decrease your wait time for warm water.
  • Protect your water meter from icy drafts and freezing temperatures. Most frozen meters are caused by drafts from an open basement door or window. Double check your property for drafts as the cold weather sets in.

View additional information from the Cambridge Water Department 

Fire Hydrants & Catch Basins Map

This map is designed to show all of the fire hydrants and catch basins in Cambridge. Use the Satellite button to zoom to your location and see the hydrants and street drains around you. The hydrants are shown as red icons and the street drains/ catch basins are blue squares.

Salt Barrel Locations Map

This map is designed to show all of the salt barrel locations throughout the city.

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