2,575 miles of roads to plow: The chaos of a Philadelphia snow day

PHL Airport is all about brooms.

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It seems like your street is always the one that hasn’t been plowed yet. And your neighbor’s sidewalk? He takes days before getting outside and shoveling it. When snow falls, disarray is never far behind. Here are a few numbers that might better help you understand the chaos that follows Philadelphia snow days.

Around the city 

The Streets Department digs Philadelphia out of the snow. On days with some accumulation, the department will have 85 pieces of equipment ready to treat the streets with more than 40,000 tons of salt. More trucks are called up when there’s enough snow that needs plowing. When there’s not a ton of snow on the ground and temps are below freezing, salting is more effective than plowing, per the city, because plowing can leave behind sheets of ice. The department attempts to salt every street, even residential streets.

But it obviously takes them a long time. Their staff and equipment isn’t enough to quickly overcome the city’s size. Philadelphia has 2,575 miles of roads. Of those, 2,180 miles are city streets, 360 miles are state highways and 35 miles are roads in Fairmount Park.

At the airport

PHL Airport is all about brooms on snow days. Not the push broom you keep in your kitchen but massive brooms attached to plows that push away the snow rather than scrape it off, according to the airport’s public affairs manager Mary Flannery.

Airport staffers also have a lot of area to cover. PHL has four runways of 10,500 feet, 9,500 feet, 6,500 feet and 5,000 feet.

The PPA takes care of the airport’s parking spots and, per PPA spokesperson Marty O’Rourke, has to clear 7,117 economy spaces and 1,271 rooftop garage spaces.

When to get mad at your neighbor/landlord 

After six hours. Yell at him then. The city code states that building owners must clear a path on the sidewalk in front of their property of three feet or 12 inches (if the sidewalk is less than three feet in width) within six hours after the snow has stopped falling.