Jan 5, 2022 - News

D.C. snowplow map labels snowy streets as serviced

A snow-covered intersection with Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the background
Street at Duke Ellington School of the Arts claimed to have been recently plowed. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

The District debuted a new live map of its snowplows this winter. But residents are startled over streets the map claims have been serviced but are still covered in snow.

Driving the news: Across town, residents on Tuesday found side streets covered in ice and snow — even sometimes when the map reported a snowplow had been there mere hours earlier.

  • On W Street SE in Anacostia, inches of snow and ice were on the street in the afternoon, even as the live map said a plow had been there under four hours ago.
  • “I’m devastated, because if the app is saying it’s been cleaned and plowed, then why are we still having a hard time getting out of our homes?” said Naquita Jenkins, who lives on the block and had to miss work this morning due to almost knee-high snow.

In Georgetown, a downed tree was blocking half of Reservoir Road NW outside Book Hill Park. Snow and ice were still making some cars spin their wheels.

  • The city’s map said a plow had serviced the block four to eight hours ago, more than 15 hours after the last flakes fell.
  • Nearby, two streets surrounding Duke Ellington School of the Arts were likewise covered in at least an inch of snow, despite claims a plow had been there within the past four hours.
  • More reports of the snowplowing discrepancy were over social media.

What they’re saying: Christopher Geldart, the deputy mayor who oversees snow removal, said some plows may have serviced streets to only drop salt, unable to push the snow.

  • But in many cases, an unplowed residential street was oftentimes blocks away from a street that was cleared, showing spotty coverage.
  • Geldart added that the Department of Transportation handles tree removal, not the plows operated by the Department of Public Works.
  • He said a combination of heavy snow that came down fast and plow crews down 40 city employees due to COVID-19 hampered response efforts.

“I’m thinking we’ll be 90 to 95% complete by sunrise” today, Geldart said. “There will still be some cleanup to do, and some streets to finish out, but the balance of the work should be done.”

What’s next: Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh, who chairs the committee overseeing snow removal, vowed more scrutiny of DPW.

  • "I hope to find out what needs fixing in that agency, particularly with management," she said in a statement to Axios.
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