Snow and Ice Management

Plow at night
Whatcom County Public Works (WCPW) is charged with safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively maintaining reliable access to the County’s road system.  In order to do this during winter months, WCPW has long-established guidelines for coordinated snow and ice removal on all of the 960 miles of county-maintained roads. Each road is given a priority level, 1, 2, 3, or 4. Road plowing and sanding is prioritized based on factors like how much traffic a road receives, if it is a transit or school route, if the road has emergency facilities like police and fire stations, and other similar criteria. This means that service on low-priority level 3 and 4 roads may be significantly reduced during and after severe snowfall, ice storms, and other winter weather. 

Residents are encouraged to prepare in advance for winter storms and stay home for their safety until roads are cleared and safe. The unique climate of Whatcom County can cause extreme weather in one area and relatively no impact in another. Residents should not assume the conditions at their location represent the conditions of the county as a whole. 

  • Public Works uses social media to post the most up-to-date information during our winter operations. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
  • Every road in Whatcom County has been assigned a priority, view the WCPW Snow Priorities Map
  • The WCPW Snow Policy explains how each county roads receives its priority level and other rules, restrictions, and safety guidelines we have created.
Road Priority Levels and Their Descriptions

Priority Level 1 (PL1): Highest Priority. These are major arterial and collector roads that Public Works considers high volume. These roads may include bus routes. (See priority routes on attached map)

  • Travelers should be prepared to drive in conditions of snow, compact snow, and ice. 
Priority Level 2 (PL2): Normally, secondary paved roads that serve a functional need for public access, like fire, safety, public transit, or school, but that have less traffic overall than Priority 1 roads.

  • PL 2 roads will be plowed after PL1 roads have been plowed and can be maintained.
  • Travelers should be prepared to drive in conditions of snow, compact snow, and ice.
Priority Level 3 (PL3): Low traffic volume roads that may include milk routes or roads leading to higher density housing areas. **

  • PL 3 Roads are plowed only after PL 1 and 2 roads have been completed and can be maintained. 
  • Accumulations of snow can be expected to exceed twelve inches. 
  • These roads will not be plowed on a routine schedule. 
  • Residents should plan for up to seven days without snow removal or management service during extreme conditions.
  • Travelers should be prepared to drive in conditions that include twelve inches of snow, compact snow, and ice. 
** If a Priority Level 3 road is used by a school district or Whatcom Transit Authority as a recognized bus route, it may be maintained at the same level as a Priority 2 road on in-person school days.  

Priority Level 4 (PL4): Lower traffic volume roads, developments, cul-de-sacs, single lane and dead end roads, including remote areas. These roads are not bus or transit routes. Whatcom County must prioritize its limited snow and ice management resources towards its higher priority roads before committing any winter road maintenance personnel or equipment to PL4 roads. 

  • PL 4 Roads are plowed only after all other higher priority level roads have been completed and can be maintained. 
  • Accumulations of snow can be expected to exceed twelve inches. 
  • These roads will not be plowed on a routine schedule. 
  • Residents should plan for up to seven days without snow removal or management service during extreme conditions.
  • Travelers should be prepared to drive in conditions that include twelve inches of snow, compact snow, and ice. 
State Routes
These routes are maintained by the WSDOT. 

City Roads
These roads are maintained by individual cities.

Private Roads
Whatcom County does not provide winter weather services to private roads. Contractors that provide snow plowing and other winter services for private roads are listed on contractor websites like Craigslist and Angie’s List.

Helpful Resources