Winter Control Operations


City of Orillia General Enquiries
50 Andrew Street South
Suite 300, Orillia
Ontario L3V 7T5

Phone: 705-325-1311
Fax: 705-325-5178

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Snow removal service for the City of Orillia follows a Council-approved Winter Control Policy.  This Policy was developed to ensure that roads and sidewalks are plowed, sanded or salted in the most timely and effective manner.

On average, Orillia receives about 272 centimetres (9 feet) of snow each winter. A major snowfall event can produce an accumulation of 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 24 inches) of snow.

The City of Orillia maintains the following equipment to clear snow from 365 (lane) kilometres of roads, 120 kilometres of sidewalks, 19 parking lots, 34 signalized intersections, and five bridges:

  • Seven snow plows
  • Five sanders
  • One anti-icing, de-icing machine
  • Six sidewalk plows
  • One motor grader
  • Two loader plows
  • One tractor/blower


With an accumulation of 4 centimetres or more of snow, all arterial, collector, and transit bus roads are cleared first. This allows emergency service vehicles and the public to travel safely to hospitals, schools, work and City Transit bus stops, during or immediately after a snowfall.

City Transit bus roads, even if they run through local residential and subdivision streets, are a first- priority classification.

All arterial roads are cleared to a centre-bare pavement surface condition.

Residential streets are plowed only after snow accumulates in excess of 8 centimetres. Residential streets are cleared to a snow-packed surface condition.

When all streets require plowing, they are to be cleared within 6 to 24 hours following the end of the snowfall event, depending on road classification and snow accumulations. Heavy snowfalls or successive storms can sometimes extend this period longer than 24 hours.

Clearing of snow bank snow at all residential, commercial, and industrial driveways and entrances is the responsibility of the property owner.

Sanding and Salting

Sand/salt trucks are dispatched at the start of a snowfall and at the first sign that roads are becoming icy. Streets with the greatest volume of traffic, called arterial roads, are sanded or salted first. Examples of arterial roads are: Atherley Road, Front Street, Laclie Street, Coldwater Road, Memorial Avenue, and West Street.

Collector roads that lead to arterial roads are sanded or salted next. Examples of collector roads are: Barrie Road, Fittons Road, James Street, and Westmount Drive.

Sand is used on snow-packed local residential streets at intersections, hills, and curves. The City typically does not sand the entire street.

Salt (sodium chloride) is the most commonly used chemical for snow and ice control. Salt is widely used because of its effectiveness at moderate subfreezing temperatures, relatively low cost, availability, and ease of application in the solid form with current spreader equipment. At pavement temperatures above about -7oC (20oF), salt is effective for combating ice and light snow and greatly enhances the effectiveness of plowing under heavy snow conditions.

Salt use is kept to a minimum. It is spread only on main (arterial) roads and some secondary collector streets. Salting occurs at the beginning of a snowfall to establish a melting point to help keep streets clear. The sand mixture used on all roads is typically 95% sand and 5% salt.

City sand/salt spreader trucks, road patrol, and supervisor trucks are equipped with infrared pavement temperature sensors that provide immediate access to pavement and local air temperature information. The amount of highway salt used in de-icing roads is largely dependent upon the mass of snow or ice on the road surface and the pavement temperature. Accurate knowledge of pavement surface temperature assists in determining suitable salt application rates and reduces salt waste.

Anti-icing or Direct Liquid Application (DLA)

Anti-icing and de-icing are two distinct snow and ice control strategies that make use of chemical freezing-point depressants and differ in their fundamental objective. The objective of anti-icing is to prevent the bonding of snow and ice with the pavement surface through timely application of a chemical freezing-point depressant. The objective of de-icing is to destroy the bond between snow and ice and the pavement surface by chemical or physical means, or a combination of the two. Anti-icing requires about one-fifth the amount of chemical to prevent a bond from forming compared to the amount required to destroy the bond.

Anti-icing or Direct Liquid Application (DLA) is a new procedure for the City's winter control operations. It is performed to prevent the bonding of snow to the pavement surface and provides effective plowing of the road surface. It is also a procedure used to prevent the formation of black ice and frost on road surfaces. Anti-icing operations are not designed to deal with snowfalls that occur after the initial liquid application.

The liquid used for anti-icing contains a percentage of salt brine and an organic liquid de-icer. The percentage of salt brine and liquid de-icer can be changed to meet forecasted pavement temperatures during certain times of the year. The addition of the liquid de-icer to a salt brine solution will lower the eutectic, or freeze-point temperature, of the liquid enabling it to continue working at much lower temperatures.

Anti-icing requires good winter weather information and strict supervision of resources to be successful. The City of Orillia uses modern technology in the application of these materials and keeps up-to-date on new developments. Salt-reducing measures are implemented as appropriate to Orillia's needs. Our goal is to be proactive in this area recognizing that the safety of City streets during slippery conditions must not be jeopardized by the use of alternative products.


With the accumulation of 8 centimetres or more of snow, designated City sidewalks associated with arterial, collector, City Transit bus routes, and public schools are plowed first. These sidewalks are to be cleared within 24 hours after the end of the winter storm event.

Residential sidewalks are plowed next. They are to be cleared within 48 hours after the end of the winter storm event.

Heavy snowfalls or successive storm events can sometimes extend these periods.

Sidewalk sanding or salting is done when extremely slippery conditions exist.

All sidewalks are maintained in a snow-packed surface condition. Sidewalks are cleared to a snow- packed condition, but the equipment does not allow for clearing down to bare surface.

When the amount of snow is so great that plowing is no longer effective, blower attachments are often used. When blowers are used, it takes longer to complete the routes.

Sidewalks in the Business Improvement Area are governed by the City's Municipal Code, Chapter 660. Merchants are required to clear the sidewalk fronting their businesses.

How You Can Help

We all want our street cleared of snow quickly, but nothing slows down the work of snow plows more than cars parked on the street. In order to speed up snow removal, please follow these simple rules:

  • Move all vehicles from the roadway during winter storm events. Keeping parked vehicles off the street and sidewalks will speed up snow removal and increase community safety.
  • Do not park vehicles on City streets, sidewalks, boulevards, and parking lots between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. from November 15 to April 15 (By-law 1983-80). Vehicles found to be impeding road and sidewalk snow clearing operations can be ticketed and/or towed at the owner's expense.
  • Do not park at the end of your driveway or over the sidewalk.
  • Do not place snow on the roadway when shovelling or plowing driveways, entrances and sidewalks (By-law 1983-80)
  • Pile snow on the right side of your driveway (when facing the street) when shovelling. This helps to minimize the pile of snow created by the snowplow at the end of your driveway.
  • Remove snow from fire hydrants. During heavy snowfalls, fire hydrants can become snow covered. Time is essential when fighting a fire; every minute counts. Time wasted locating a fire hydrant could be used to safeguard lives and property. If you have a fire hydrant on your front lot, residential, commercial, or industrial property, please help keep the hydrant clear of snow and other obstructions.
  • Keep drainage catch basins clear of snow and ice. A build-up of snow and ice on catch basins will prevent the proper drainage from occurring during a thaw.
  • Be a good neighbour. Help those who may not be able to shovel their driveways and walkways.
  • Be patient. In heavy snowfalls it takes us longer to get all our streets cleared.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What can I expect from the City when it snows?

A. During the winter season, from November 15 to April 15, City patrols are checking road and sidewalk conditions, as well as monitoring weather forecasts. Their main role is to ensure that roads and sidewalks are safe and passable.

When snow starts to fall, sand/salt spreader trucks are sent out to the arterial roads first then the collector roads and transit bus routes. It is the City's main priority to ensure that these routes are clear for emergency and transit vehicles. If 4 cm of snow has accumulated on the road surface, plows are sent out to these roads.

Q. What can I do to prepare for a snow storm?

A. If possible, keep parked cars off the street so that plows can move through the streets more effectively. Use public transit whenever possible. Fewer cars on the street can help us plow the snow. When a snow storm is in the forecast, you should ensure that you purchase any food, medication, and household supplies that you might need for the next 48 hours. Try to stay off the streets.

Q. Which streets and sidewalks get plowed first and why?

A. Streets designated as "priority" are cleared first and then crews take care of the remainder of the streets. The City is divided into seven areas or "beats." Each beat is made up of a street list starting with the priority roads. Priority roads carry the higher volumes of traffic and are most easily identified as arterial (main) roads or collector (secondary) roads. These are the roads people use to get in and out of the city, to business areas, and to medical facilities. City Transit bus routes are also considered in the first round of snow removal. The "other" roads are the second-priority roads, primarily residential or secondary routes. These are systematically plowed after the "priority" routes are completed. By having different priorities, it allows us to focus our operations to ensure that there is basic access through the City for emergency vehicles and that large traffic volumes can travel safely.

Most beats are assigned one snow clearing unit but in the case of multi-lane roads more can be provided. Crews have a detailed list of streets in their beat to ensure that all are cleared.

Similarly, sidewalks are divided into five areas or "beats" with two categories for City clearing operations. The Business Improvement Area (BIA), heavily travelled routes, and routes leading directly to schools, are the first priority. All other sidewalks are cleared after these primary sidewalks are completed.

Q. Who determines which streets get plowed first?

A. The City of Orillia roads and streets are cleared on a priority basis according to the classification/rating of each road within the City. This is set out in the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways, Ontario Regulation 239/02 made under the Municipal Act, 2002. For winter operations, these regulations specify our patrol frequency and clearance of snow and ice for each class of highway.

City roads are categorized into five main classes. Classes 1, 2, and 3 are priority roads, which include arterial and some secondary collector roads; these roads take first priority. Classes 4 and 5, which include local residential streets and cul-de-sacs, have lower priority.

Q. How long does it take to plow the streets?

A. The City's goal is to plow all streets in less than 24 hours after the snowfall has ceased. During periods of heavy snowfall, plowing operations can take longer.

Q. A City plow has just dumped snow in my driveway. Will the City come back and remove the snow?

A. The plowing operation places snow from the road to the curb or boulevard. Unfortunately, this will fill in a freshly shovelled driveway. The City does not have a program whereby it will come back and remove the snow from driveways.

Q. What if I am unable to clear the snow from my driveway because of age or disability?

A. Unfortunately, snow removal services for seniors and individuals with disabilities are not available from City crews. You may be able to get assistance from a family member, a friend, or a neighbour. Many local community groups and churches have volunteers who will lend a helping hand. There are also a number of private snow clearing contractors who provide this service. Check the Yellow Pages for listings.

Q. I have to get out of my driveway for work/an appointment/etc. and the street has not been plowed. What should I do?

A. During periods of heavy snowfalls, there may be delays. It is always best to plan ahead. If you know it is going to snow, leave yourself an extra hour or so when travelling in winter conditions. Don't drive unless absolutely necessary, and please, be patient. If you must drive, please ensure your vehicle is equipped with appropriate tires and maintained properly for winter conditions (e.g., tires, fuel, windshield wiper blades and washer fluid, anti-freeze, blankets, etc.).

Q. I live on a cul-de-sac (dead-end) street. Why does my street always seem to be only partially plowed?

A. The City currently has 55 cul-de-sac/dead-end streets in its road network. Due to the small turning radius afforded by most cul-de-sacs, the large plow trucks cannot plow the circular part of the street properly. Snow that is piled up in the centre of cul-de-sacs will be removed when it becomes a hazard to drivers and/or the public in general.

Q. I live on a corner lot. Why does the plow put so much snow in my driveway? Can't you take the snow somewhere else?

A. Residents living on corner lots or first on the right of an intersection usually get more snow deposited in front of their houses and in their driveways. The reason for this is that when a snowplow turns to the right it sweeps a much larger area of the road than when it is travelling in a straight line. The snow also does not discharge from the plow when it is turning hard to the right because the plows are angled from left to right on the truck. Turning right effectively makes the plow push all the snow ahead instead of moving it from the centre of the road to the side. The first property and driveway encountered after the plow straightens out usually gets more snow than others in the immediate area.

If there is enough room, the operator can sometimes get rid of some of the snow before the driveway is reached. A fixed snowplow cannot carry snow around to put it where desired. The plow moves snow from the centre of the road to the side of the road - the operator cannot change this.

Q. The snow bank at the street corner is too high and I cannot see oncoming traffic. What can be done?

A. Every attempt is made to keep snow banks at corners to a minimum and is done between snowfall events. Special concerns should be directed to the Environmental Services and Operations Department at 705-326-4585.

Q. There is always a vehicle parked on the street and the plow makes a mess trying to get around it. Can't you have it towed away?

A. During the day, unless the street is posted as "No Parking", it is legal to park on the road.

However, parking is prohibited from November 15 to April 15 on any street between 12:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. If the plow happens to come across a parked vehicle that is causing problems during those times we can request the Police or City By-law Enforcement to have it removed. We can also request that the Police or City By-law Enforcement remove a vehicle or vehicles that are parked in such a way as to prevent winter maintenance equipment from passing. This can be done at any time.

Only staff from the City's Environmental Services and Operations Department can make requests to the Police or By-law Enforcement to have a vehicle, or vehicles, tagged and/or towed. It is up to the Police or By-law Enforcement Officer to decide whether a vehicle, or vehicles, are removed or just ticketed.

Q. My street gets no snowplowing while the next street over, which is a residential street the same as mine, gets plowed every time it snows. Why?

A. Chances are, the next street over is a City Transit bus route and they are given a higher priority by Council-approved Winter Operations Policy.

Q. Why do we sand or salt a road then come along and plow it all off?

A. Sand/salt spreader trucks are dispatched at the start of a snowfall and at the first sign of roads becoming icy. Sand is applied to the road surface to provide traction for vehicles and plow trucks. Salt is applied to the road surface to create a melting action that prevents snow that falls later from freezing to the road surface. When the plow does come along, the road gets cleaned down to the pavement and we do not get a frozen snow pack road surface that is very difficult and expensive to remove later.

Q. There are areas of my street that haven't been plowed properly. Why did the driver not do a better job?

A. Most problem areas on streets are the result of parked cars blocking the snowplows, or residents putting snow from their driveways back onto the public roadway. Residents are reminded, if at all possible, to not park vehicles on the street either during or following a snowstorm. Also, residents and private snowplowing contractors are reminded to not place snow from driveways and sidewalks on the street or across the street. Depositing snow on the public roadway is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act.

Police and/or By-law Enforcement Officers will tag and/or tow vehicles blocking road plowing operations between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. from November 15 to April 15. To contact the By-law Department during normal business hours, please call 705-325-2313. After hours and on weekends, residents can contact the Environmental Services and Operations Department at 705-326-4671.

Q. The sidewalk plow creates a small windrow (pile) across my driveway. Whose responsibility is it to clear this snow?

A. You must shovel the windrow created by sidewalk clearing equipment. Remember, it is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act to put the snow on the street.

Q. Why does City sidewalk equipment use a plow blade one time then change to a snowblower attachment later?

A. Sidewalk "V" blade attachments are used during the early part of the winter season to establish sidewalk snow banks for the season. As well, they can plow the sidewalks faster. As the season progresses, snow banks become too high for the "V" blades to prevent snow from falling back onto the sidewalk. Snowblower attachments are then used to keep sidewalks clear. However, sidewalk snowblowers operate at slower speeds and routes take longer to complete. Near the end of the winter season, sidewalk plowing operations will change back to "V" blades once sidewalk snow banks have diminished by thawing action.

Q. Why does the road plow fill in the ends of sidewalks at intersections after the sidewalk plow cleared it earlier?

A. Normally, road plows are operational with the accumulation of 4 cm (1.5 inches) of snow on the road. Sidewalk plowing starts with 8 cm (3 inches) of snow accumulation on the sidewalk. Through radio communications by the operators, the sidewalk plows generally follow behind on the roads already plowed. However, storm intensity and duration may force the road plow to re-run the route, thus filling in previously plowed sidewalk ends at intersections. Normally these sidewalk ends will be opened within 12 to 24 hours after being plowed in.

Q. Why do they have to work at night to clear snow banks from the streets? The noise keeps me awake.

A. During the daytime, there is considerable vehicle and pedestrian traffic. To ensure everyone's safety, the removal of snow banks along the streets must be done at night.

Q. Who is responsible for clearing snow around Canada Post Super Mailboxes?

A. Canada Post is responsible for clearing the snow and ice around Super Mailboxes. If your mailbox is blocked by snow, please call 705-327-2918.

Q. Why does the plow damage my sod every year and when is it going to be repaired?

A. Sod damage is the result of two factors:

  • The plow operator may have difficulty finding the sidewalk or the edge of the road under a blanket of snow.
  • The ground is not frozen.

Once a path is cleared, subsequent trips by the plow are made easier. If the sod was damaged during the first part of the season, then the damage may not be discovered until the snow melts. We have found that generally homeowners will repair the damage in front of their property before the City crews arrive. This is a tremendous help because City staff typically don't repair sod damage until after spring sweeping operations are completed in late May - severe damage being the exception. Special sod repair concerns should be directed to the Environmental Services and Operations Department at 705-326-4585.

Q. My mailbox has been damaged by the plow. What can be done?

A. The City will repair or replace a damaged or destroyed mailbox if the damage is deemed to result from a direct hit by plow equipment. Mailboxes damaged by snow load off the plow equipment will not be eligible for repair or replacement by the City. The responsibility for maintaining mailboxes lies with the owner of the mailbox. Mailbox owners are required to repair their own mailboxes that have been damaged by snow impact. Please re-attach the mailbox securely to prevent this from happening again.

The recommended minimum mailbox location measurements are as follows:

  • 1.75 metres (5 feet 9 inches) from edge of pavement to front of mailbox
  • 1.05 metres (3 feet 3 inches) from ground to bottom of mailbox.

The ideal mailbox installation is a mailbox suspended by chains (to the above measurements or greater) from a well braced, cantilever arm and post assembly.

To report a damaged mailbox, please contact the Environmental Services and Operations Department at 705-326-4585. An inspection, assessment and recommendation will be made by the Superintendent of Roads and Fleet. Mailboxes replaced by the City will be a basic mailbox, not necessarily the same as the original mailbox. Damaged posts will be replaced by temporary posts with permanent repairs undertaken in the spring once the frost is out of the ground.