Winter Storm Preparedness
Snow Emergency Parking Bans, School Closings
During substantial winter storms, the City may declare a Snow Emergency and a Parking Ban will go into effect at a specific time. During a Snow Emergency, parking is prohibited on streets signed No Parking during Snow Emergency and vehicles will be towed. Visit www.cambridgema.gov/traffic for a list and map of these streets, as well as information on parking garages that provide free parking during a declared snow emergency.
When a snow emergency is declared, information is available via phone at 617-349-4700, and is posted online as soon as possible at www.cambridgema.gov and on 22-CityView. Sign up to receive snow emergency alerts via a text message to your cell phone or to your E-mail at: www.cambridgema.gov/AlertNetwork.
For school closings, call 617-349-6513 or visit: www.cpsd.us.
The Department of Public Works will clear streets as soon as possible after a snow storm, starting with major arteries. Please don’t take it personally if we plow snow back into your driveway, but as we work to make streets passable, it is often unavoidable. Your patience and participation help the City return streets and sidewalks to safe, passable conditions as quickly as possible.
Ice and Snow-Free Sidewalks are Everyone’s Responsibility
The City clears over 18 miles of sidewalk areas including those around schools, public buildings, parks, City parking facilities and high volume bus stops.
City Ordinance requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks next to their property or business within 12 hours of daytime snowfall and before 1 p.m. when it has fallen overnight. They must also remove or melt all ice within 6 hours of the time it forms. There is a $50 fine for each day of non-compliance. If you are away, it is still your responsibility to ensure that someone clears sidewalks next to your property.
- Shovel sidewalk on all sides of your property, down to bare pavement;
- Make path wide enough a 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 ramps at corners and crosswalks;
- Keep street drains clear of snow to avoid ponding and icing at the bottom of ramps;
- Be mindful of anything—hedges, trees, parked cars— that obstructs pedestrians’ path of travel;
- Consider helping neighbors who may have difficulty clearing their walk.
Three ways to report a sidewalk that is not shoveled:
All reports will be inspected by the Traffic Dept. or Public Works staff and a ticket will be issued to the property owner if found to be in violation of the Snow Ordinance.
Low-income homeowners who are elderly or have a disability may qualify for the City's Snow Exemption Program (in which case, the City will clear your sidewalk). Call the Cambridge Council on Aging at 617-349-6220 (voice) or 617-349-6050 (TTY) to learn more.
Preventing Ice, Protecting Pedestrians and Local Waterways
For pedestrians, ice can cause dangerous falls and can be worse than snow. Under City Ordinance, property owners are responsible for both ice and snow.
While rock salt is the most commonly used deicer, if used improperly it can damage water bodies, ground water and vegetation. Many alternatives and supplements to salt can be found at your local hardware store, including magnesium chloride, potassium acetate, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and potassium chloride. These chemicals tend to be more efficient, thereby reducing the amount needed. CMA has been identified as the most environmentally benign deicer.
To minimize harm to human health, wildlife, pets and the environment, including the Charles River and Alewife Brook, follow the strategies below when applying any deicing agents:
Remove as much snow and ice as possible before applying deicing chemicals;
Know the effective temperatures for each deicer used (many don’t work well below 25F), and use only enough to break the ice-pavement bond; Remove slush by shoveling;
Select pellets, which are more effective at penetrating ice than flakes;
Apply the least amount necessary to get the job done;
Store salt and other products on an impervious surface and in a dry, covered area to prevent ground contamination and stormwater runoff;
Do not use sand. Sand does not melt ice or snow, and it makes hard ice more slippery. Sand also gets into street drains and is expensive to clean up in the spring.
For more ways to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff : www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/ourservices/stormwatermanagement.aspx.