Street Snow Removal

After snow events like the most recent one, as the snow melts, it will flow into shaded areas and refreeze, causing ice jams. The goal with ice jam treatment is to remove the hazard to the traveling public; in most cases, this does not result in complete ice removal but treating as needed and allowing temps and sunlight to assist in the complete removal. This is the most cost-effective and efficient process to maintain almost 1,320 lane miles of streets in Thornton.

The first step is to apply an ice slicer to the ice jam location, the same material used during the snow event, which leaves brownish sand-looking material on the roadway. This material melts the ice quicker than salt but isn't as corrosive. Often multiple rounds of ice slicer are utilized to treat an area.

If the ice slicer is not working to remove a hazardous condition, the ice jam will be removed mechanically using heavy equipment. Using heavy equipment is a last resort as it has the potential to damage infrastructure (roadways, sidewalks, landscape) and is expensive and slow.


A short video of hard-working staff plowing in formation during a snowstorm. Note the additional "plow wing" on the lead truck that lets the operators plow a few more feet of roadway each pass. The wing can be raised and stowed out of the way with the push of a button. Three of the four trucks have a live bottom system, which spreads the ice slicer before the rear wheels for better traction, while a third truck in line has a v-box spreader at the rear of the truck.

shovel.jfifHow I can help as a Citizen.

  • While ice can possibly accumulate in the gutter, we can apply Ice Slicer for melting and traction. 
  • With early notification, ice build up can be slowed down or eliminated. 
  • Together, these can help alleviate the use of heavy equipment and possible damage to City Infrastructure.
  • Shovel snow onto the sun exposed areas of your lawn and garden and not into roadways and bike lanes. This prevents ice from building up in the gutters, causing problems after the storm.
  • Park 6" to a foot from the curb to allow meltoing snow to pass.
  • Shovel early! When snow isn't shoveled, it gets packed down and becomes ice.
  • Shovel snow all the way to the pavement prevents ice from forming.
  • Use ecofreindly and pet-safe deicers. Salt can be damaging when the snowmelt runs off onto your lawn or into the storm sewer.
  • Use the shovel to push the snow. Don't lift it. 

Submit a snow removal service request through My Thornton.

Our Task

Thornton has over 335 miles of Primary Streets (like 120th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard). There are 208 Secondary Streets (like Eppinger Boulevard and Cottonwood Lakes Boulevard) and an additional 619 miles of Residential Streets, totaling more than 1,300 miles of road within city limits. Snowplows continuously plow all Primaries to keep roads open, followed by Secondaries routes as weather permits.

​​​​​​The city divides storms into three classes and responds accordingly. 

  • Class I - A storm that lasts less than 12 hours with snow accumulations of less than 4 inches.
  • Class IIA storm that lasts more than 12 hours with snow accumulations between 4 and 8 inches.
  • Class III A storm lasting more than 24 hours and snow accumulating over 9 inches.

In any snowstorm, the city's first commitment is to clear the Primaries, then the Secondaries — and keep them cleared. In the case of a Class III storm (and only in this case), the city will bring in additional equipment to plow residential streets. Residential streets will receive one pass down the middle of the street, not a curb-to-curb street clearing, and the snow will be plowed to the right side of the street.

During large storms, snowfall may be so heavy that only Primaries can be maintained in a passable condition until the storm lets up. When Primaries are clear, then Secondaries are plowed.

​​Streets - First Attention  

Priorities - The first priority for city plows is the primary routes: the major arterial streets such as Colorado Boulevard, Washington Street, 104th Avenue, 120th Avenue, and 136th Avenue. Next to be plowed are the secondary routes, including local collector streets, school zones, and fire station zones. As defined above, residential streets are only plowed for a Class III storm.

​During a StormIn Class I or Class II storms, city crews will plow only selected streets identified as Primary and Secondary routes. Primary and Secondary routes comprise 543 lane miles of Thornton's street system. In a Class I storm, Primary routes are treated within three hours of snow accumulating on roadways. After the primary routes are completed, secondary routes will be cleared of snow and ice.

Tertiary Routes - In the event of a storm, which meets the Class II definition plus a prolonged period of freezing temperatures, a decision is made to plow Tertiary routes, which include an additional 55 miles of neighborhood streets. These routes are cleared by Street Operations personnel once the primary and secondary streets are cleared and treated. These routes will receive one pass down the middle of the street, not a curb-to-curb street clearing.

During Class II and Class III storms, snowfall may be so heavy that only Primary routes can be maintained in a passable condition until the storm abates. When Primary routes are clear, then Secondary routes are plowed. Residential streets are only plowed during Class III storms. 

Residential Streets and Plowing Shifts  

Residential Streets - Residents will not necessarily see bare pavement after plowing residential streets. The emphasis for residential streets is to create a single passable lane down the middle that can be navigated by passenger vehicles equipped for winter travel. 

Blocked Driveways - During heavy snowfalls, problems arise for residents when mounds of snow are left on the sides of streets, which may block driveways, also known as windrows. Although a concerted effort is made to avoid this, it is not always possible. Residential streets are plowed down the center of the street to prevent covering sidewalks and parked cars or blocking driveways. The city of Thornton does not remove or haul away snow as part of this program, and it is the resident's responsibility to clear these windrows.

Snowplow Deployment and Shifts - When the snow hits, all of our crews and equipment work 12-hour shifts, and in the event of a Class III storm, the city also has its contractors working to remove the snow. 


Snowbusters Program - Community Connections