More than 1,400 Philadelphians are asking for help with snow, ice removal — with more to come

Requests were already pouring in after Philly’s first storm this week. Here’s what you need to know about snow and ice removal, and who’s responsible.

Unplowed streets are seen in Philadelphia

Conditions on the ground in Philadelphia show unplowed streets and sidewalks as more snow continues to fall Friday. (Courtesy of Cassandra Garza)

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As Philadelphia faces Friday’s snow emergency, residents continue to tackle snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

So who’s responsible for removing snow and ice on streets, sidewalks and alleyways?

In short, it appears to be a complicated mosaic, city data and ordinances show.

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The city of Philadelphia’s help desk system, known as Philly 311, is overflowing with pleas from residents for salting and plowing in their communities and commercial corridors.

More than 1,400 help requests were submitted between Monday, Jan. 15 and Thursday, Jan. 18, 311 data shows. And requests continue to roll in Friday, the city’s mobile app shows.

The city invested in a live plowing tool that shows which streets have been tackled. That data reveals there are entire neighborhoods, such as Brewerytown and Sharswood in North Philly, which had not seen city services by noon on Friday.

Many more streets in Northern Liberties have been salted and plowed, according to the city’s data.

Live data from the city of Philadelphia's Snow Plow PHL map shows that entire neighborhoods had yet to be treated as of noon Friday
Live data from the city of Philadelphia’s Snow Plow PHL map shows that entire neighborhoods had yet to be treated as of noon Friday. (Philly 311)

City officials did not respond to WHYY News’ request for an interview about the 311 data.

Officials said during Thursday and Friday press conferences that they would pay special attention to small streets and say they have plenty of bulk salt and brine on hand — upwards of 43,000 tons — as well as hundreds of workers on the job.

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Sidewalks appear to be another issue. Across the city, large swaths of ice top packed snow which is now being covered by a fluffy layer, hiding ice underneath.

City ordinance requires all homeowners, landlords and businesses to remove snow and ice within six hours of snowfall. The minimum width of snow removal on a sidewalk is 1 foot.

“We need access for plowing, salting, [and] our emergency vehicles so please help us,” said Adam Thiel, the city’s managing director, said Thursday.

Snow and ice cannot be thrown into the street, however. Instead, it needs to be piled along the curb. If ignored, the city can fine offenders up to $300.

Interim streets department commissioner Calton Williams said that “residents should clear their walkways” and that the city has already issued 200 citations for “people not clearing their walkway” over the past week. That number is likely to grow in the coming days.


This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

WHYY News’ Tom MacDonald contributed to this report. 

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