Ripon Snow Plow

Snow flies as a city of Ripon snowplow clears a path in 2014 down Watson Street


What procedure does Ripon’s Department of Public Works follow to remove snow?


The city of Ripon has a written policy, detailing its snow removal procedures that the Public Works Department uses as a guide.

While the policy sets general guidelines to be followed, each storm has variable conditions that make the policy “flexible” to factors such as wind, extreme temperatures, timing, duration and moisture.

The public works team monitors the weather conditions, utilizing information from the police department, internet weather sites and reports from the National Weather Service to stay up-to-date on road conditions

Typically, 3 inches or more accumulation will prompt salting to stop and plowing procedures to start.

The plan details procedures for ice control, snow plowing and snow removal.

Ice control

According to the policy, ice control efforts begin when either the public works director or lead supervisor believe travel conditions are “unsafe.”

“Deicing operations can vary greatly, depending on whether there is a need for citywide coverage, or if the slippery areas are isolated,” the policy said. “The department of public works and the police department will be in radio contact to assure that priority locations are addressed in a timely manner.”

Emergency routes are given the first priority, followed by main streets, secondary streets and low volume through streets, which also include dead ends, cul-de-sacs and alleys.

“When icy conditions occur in the city, hazardous situations will present themselves in numerous locations at the same time,” the policy said of the prioritization. “It must be realized that salting crews cannot be in all places at all times, and the effect of salting is not immediate.”

Additionally, salt is only 20% as effective at 20 degrees than it is at 30 degrees, and in colder temperatures it’s even less effective. Salting is limited in extremely cold temperatures.

“At very low temperatures, salt/abrasives may be used; for icy or packed-snow conditions, we may use a salt/abrasive mixture to provide traction,” the policy states. “These mixtures will be used at intersections where start/stop movements are frequent, at railroad crossings, on bridges, and on steep hills where slippery conditions make driving hazardous.”

That strategy is known as “anti-icing” and attempts to prevent ice and pavement from bonding by applying salt brine before, or at the start, of snow storms to bridges, curves and “hazardous locations.”

Snow plowing

Snow plowing begins when the public works director or lead supervisor believes that “sufficient snow exists to be a hazard to traffic,” typically, for snow falls with 3 or more inches of accumulation.

According to the plan, attention is given to city streets similarly to ice control efforts with emergency routes taking priority, followed by main streets, secondary streets and low-volume residential streets.

As a result, during heavy snowfall during peak travel times, emergency routes and main streets are continually plowed, secondary streets are patrolled as frequently as possible and low-volume streets may not be plowed until the snow ends.

“Where steep hills or other safety concerns exist, a street may be advanced to a higher priority for plowing,” the plan states. “For operating efficiency, some lower priority streets may be done when equipment is in the area rather than doubling back at a later time. This will vary by storm severity.”

The plan noted plows need to make “two to four passes down a street to clear it curb to curb,” noting the city aims to do that “at one time” to allow residents to shovel out driveways and sidewalks.

“It is best to wait, if possible, until we’ve finished plowing before shoveling out your driveway,” the procedure said.

The plan added that parked and abandoned vehicles present obstacles to snow removal and advises individuals to “refrain from parking on city streets during all snow-removal operations.”

Snow removal

According to the policy, “snow removal is necessary after heavy storms or a series of storms where there is limited or no snow storage area,” but it doesn’t happen every time plowing occurs.

“This will vary depending on the timing of the storm, the amount of precipitation received and the forecast,” the procedure said.

The public works department, first, removes snow from areas where it causes the most disruption to traffic and parking, which includes Watson Street and main streets with little or no terrace area. Next would be secondary streets, followed by low-volume streets.

The public works director also may select additional streets for “widening to the face of the curb,” due to traffic congestion, parking, school activities or other traffic concerns.

“In the days following a heavy storm or series of storms, department of public works crews will remove snow piles from dead ends, municipal parking lots and cul‐de‐sacs during normal working hours,” the policy said. “This operation will not necessarily be performed after every storm event.”

What this means for you:

The city has a detailed procedure to deal with snowfall that can require crews to begin snow operations at 2 a.m.

In fact, during last week’s snowstorm, Ripon Police Chief Bill Wallner commended the work of the city’s public works department.

“The Ripon Department of Public Works did a great job getting out and salting those areas that we typically have issues with like hills and intersections,” he told the Commonwealth.

How to submit if you have a question, we want to give you an answer. Send a question, name and contact information to:

Mail: 303 Watson St., Ripon WI 54971, P.O. Box 262, Ripon WI 54971


Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.


(1) comment

Kriss Standke

If we are paying people to man the trucks and salt the streets I say tell them to lower the plow blades! It's senseless to slat over up to 3" of snow and not lower the plow blade? Does it cost more to plow and salt at the same time? What is the sidewalk policy? Is it OK for taxpayers to leave the sidewalk unshoveled and just sprinkle a bit of salt on it until there is more than 3 inches? What about business owners like Webster's... Can they do as the city does? I think the customers would have a problem with that. Well, I think the taxpayers of Ripon would like their residential streets plowed when it snows just like all the other areas get cleared.

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