Severe Weather Response

plow on snowy road

When ice, snow or other severe weather hits, Public Works is ready to respond

Be prepared, stay safe

Vancouver Public Works keeps a close eye on weather conditions and potential impacts to streets, signals, utilities and other Public Works services. There are a variety of ways to stay connected and learn more with helpful links and other resources.  

When severe weather or emergencies arise, City of Vancouver Public Works crews respond with a strategic approach. Top priority streets are those that connect and serve public safety. (Please see the map and info below to view the street priorities for severe weather and emergencies.) 

Snow and icy conditions can also impact garbage and recycling services. Be sure to sign up for garbage and recycling service alerts. It’s a great way to stay informed, especially during times of severe weather.

And don’t forget about water! Protect your home from bursting water pipes. Remember to disconnect hoses and insulate or wrap outside hose bibs and the water pipes in garages, basements, attics and along outside walls, before temperatures drop to freezing.

Learn more about Public Works’ priorities during severe weather, along with tips for how you can weather a storm, below.

Street Priorities

During severe weather, Vancouver Public Works prioritizes efforts to deliver the biggest impact to major routes and overpasses that provide the backbone for public safety. Equipment and employees are fully utilized to maintain those priority routes in a passable condition for emergency vehicle use. Neighborhood residential streets are not deiced or plowed. View a map of the city’s priorities for snow plows and other severe weather conditions.

Deicing Streets

When severe weather threatens to make streets slick and icy, Vancouver Public Works crews turn to deicing to keep major routes safe and passable. Here are some answers to Frequently Asked Questions about deicing.

Q: What does the City of Vancouver use to treat the streets when the weather turns icy or snowy?

A: The City of Vancouver uses granular and liquid anti-icing solutions to improve driving conditions during severe winter weather. Sand is an option but likely to be used only in minimal amounts and in special situations.

Q: Why is deicer applied in advance of snow or ice arrive?

A: Deicing solution works well as an advance preparation. When forecasts and conditions indicate slick or icy conditions ahead, crews may apply deicing solution to dry pavement as a preemptive strike against things to come. Too much rain, however, will dilute and wash away deicer. Timing and being prepared for whatever the weather brings is a big part of keeping streets passable.

Q: What’s in the deicing solution?

A: The ingredients in Vancouver’s anti-icing solutions are water and sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is the safest and most cost-effective anti-icing product available for our needs in the Southwest Washington climate. Under particularly severe and heavily iced conditions, the City may also use granular sodium chloride (salt), typically at spot locations. 

Q: Why use sodium chloride instead of sand and gravel?

A: The decision to use sodium chloride came about several years ago after careful consideration of our winter weather needs and history. By using sodium chloride in granular or liquid solution, the City can reduce costs and be more effective in keeping roads open and improving winter driving conditions.

Here’s why: Unlike sand and gravel, deicing solution doesn’t always need to be reapplied as frequently during a snow or ice event. And importantly, it does not require extensive cleanup after the snow and ice are gone. With sand and gravel, a one-day snow event can result in as much as two weeks spent just cleaning off roadways. Sand and gravel also can clog stormwater drains and have an adverse impact on aquatic life.

Q: Will the sodium chloride solution harm the environment?

A: Since the volume of anti-icing products required to manage our Pacific Northwest winters is relatively low, environmental concerns are considered minimal. Used only in localized spots and with proper application, sodium chloride can have minimal impact on the environment, well below regulatory standards or guidelines. It’s important to remember, too, that Vancouver enjoys a relatively mild climate. Southwest Washington typically does not experience extended periods of heavy winter snow and ice, unlike other parts of the country. Snow events have been infrequent in lower elevations within much of the City of Vancouver. As a result, the volume of anti-icing products needed to manage our streets is low.

The City of Vancouver’s application rate for deicing streets is based on about 100 lbs of sodium chloride per lane mile, or about one wheelbarrow full per one mile.

Q: Is the sodium chloride deicer corrosive? Will it damage my vehicle?

A: All chloride-based products used for deicing have corrosive qualities at some level. However, the relative infrequency of severe winter weather – requiring limited amounts of deicers – and the abundance of Pacific Northwest rains – quickly washing away deicers – significantly help to minimize corrosion concerns here. In addition, vehicle manufacturers’ methods of preventing corrosion have improved over the years. Many newer vehicles have components made of composites and other materials not as prone to corrosion as steel. Undercarriages are frequently treated to add further protection. Based on research conducted to date, vehicles are more likely to encounter damage from gravel and sand/rock. If you have concerns about anti-icing agents and your vehicle, consider periodic winter visits to a commercial car wash that recycles its water. You’ll remove any residue and help conserve and protect resources.

Q: Where does Vancouver get its deicing solution?

A: We make our own. By maintaining and operating its own deicing brine mixing and storage stations, Vancouver has been able to keep supplies strong and streets treated when severe winter weather brought icy conditions. Crews can make 10,000 gallons of brine an hour, storing it in two city tanks, with a total holding capacity of 24,000 gallons.

Reporting Problems

For urgent issues, such as traffic signal outages, downed trees blocking City streets, help turning off water when pipes have frozen, please call the Public Works Operations Center Dispatch directly at 360-487-8177. For calls outside of regular Operations office hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wed.), simply follow the directions to connect with our after-hours service line. Check to determine if your address is within the City of Vancouver.

For downed power lines, keep back and report to Clark Public Utilities at 360-992-8000 or 360-992-3000.

Please do NOT report urgent issues that need immediate attention through the MyVancouver app. Requests sent on the MyVancouver app and the Public Works’ online service request form are typically handled the next working day when submitted and received after regular office hours.

Traffic Signal Outages

During power outages and interruptions, Vancouver’s traffic signals will go dark. When power comes back on or flickers, the signals will restart as flashing red. When signals are dark or flashing red, treat these intersections as a four-way stop, and proceed with caution. To report signals out or flashing red, please call 360-487-8177.

Frozen Water Lines

The best way to prevent water pipes from freezing is to take steps before temperatures drop below freezing. Be sure to disconnect all garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. Protect outside faucets and hose bibs with insulation, and don’t forget to also insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces, basements, garages and/or attics. 

Please remember that you are responsible for protecting and repairing water pipes on your property. Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. Without water and suspect a problem is at the meter? Please call the City’s Operations Center at 360-487-8177 for help.

Garbage and Recycling Updates

Remember, snowy and icy conditions impact garbage and recycling collections, too. Should service be canceled due to severe weather conditions, customers who are missed will get a call from Waste Connections, providing they have a current phone number. (If your phone is listed on a Do Not Call Registry, you may not be able to receive the call alert.) For questions related to cancellations, schedules and accounts, contact Waste Connections by email at or call 360-892-5370.

Customers who’ve also signed up for alerts/notices using Vancouver’s free RecycleRight app will also get a notice via their choice of contact. Go directly to getting the recycle right app or first learn how to sign up for alerts here: