January 2016 Blizzard Update

The HOA office and Nature Center will close by 12:00 pm on Friday, January 22, 2016 in conjunction with the Federal Government.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you are well aware that we’re expecting a significant winter weather event this weekend.  Whether we get 12 inches of snow or 30, the impact will take its toll and we will be digging out for several days.  The governor has declared a state of emergency, schools have been canceled, and we are under a blizzard warning with heavy snow and wind expected through 6am Sunday.  Conditions will deteriorate rapidly starting Friday afternoon. I wanted to take some time to explain a little bit about what to expect in the coming days.

Broadlands Association and our snow plow contractor, Signature Snow and Ice Control, has made as many advanced preparations as possible in order to keep the association owned roads cleared for emergency response vehicles.  Additional heavy equipment and plow operators have been brought in to assist with this epic event.  I would ask residents to exercise patience as we dig out of the storm.  First of all, please take a moment to determine whether you live on a VDOT street or a private (HOA owned) street.  Visit http://www.broadlandshoa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/SnowRemoval.pdf if you are unsure.  Those residents living on private streets pay an additional assessments to the HOA to fund private road maintenance, including snow and ice services.  Residents on VDOT streets do not pay the HOA for their road maintenance; these roads are paid for by your personal property taxes.  The VDOT website has some good information regarding snow removal at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp.

Our contractor has been plowing in Broadlands for +-18 years.  If there is one thing the owner, Ted Sjurseth is passionate about, it’s snow.  (He also happens to be the founder and President of America’s 9/11 Foundation and is the mastermind behind the annual 9/11 motorcycle ride, but that’s a story for another day).  Ted also has crews that plow public roads in the northern part of Broadlands for VDOT (the roads south of Waxpool/Truro Parish are dispatched out of the Aldie office rather than Leesburg).  Plow drivers work 18 hour shifts with 6 hours of sleep between shifts.  They work around the clock to keep you safe and make roads accessible as quickly as possible following a snow event.

The chief objective of snow plowing is to clear one drive lane in order for emergency responders to get to you in the event of a fire or other life threatening emergency.  The efforts to clear the roadways are not to enable drivers to go to the grocery store, go to non- essential work, or go joy riding/4 wheeling.  We ask that you stay home and off the roads for your safety and the safety of others.   If you get on the road under less than optimal driving conditions, you may endanger the lives of snow plow operators, emergency responders who would help you if you got hurt, and doctors/nurses/etc. trying to get to their essential, life-saving jobs.  Vehicles driving on snow compact it down, making it more difficult for the plow blade to clear the surface to the pavement.   Please heed the warnings of the government and media and stay off the road unless you absolutely must be out in it.

Plow operators are assigned specific areas of the community and it may take several hours for them to get through their entire section.  After one drive lane is made passable, the plows will continue to circulate and will eventually return to widen to two drive lanes, and finally to clean up the remaining snow from intersections and sidewalk curb ramps.  With the accumulation we are expecting, this will likely take several hours or days to complete.  Machinery and laborers will also be used to clear the main trails and sidewalks adjacent to HOA owned streets.  Remember: if your property borders a community sidewalk, it is your responsibility to clear that sidewalk.  We fully anticipate having machinery and crews working in the community through Tuesday or Wednesday of next week in order to complete this massive cleanup effort.

Plows are often a misunderstood piece of equipment.  If you’ve ever driven a full sized pickup on a crowded street, which can be a challenge on its own, consider what it’s like to add a 6ft wide plow blade sticking 4 feet out in front of your vehicle.  Even a “small” plow truck can be in excess of 22’ long.  Take it from me, operating a large vehicle, manipulating a plow blade from side to side and up and down, and frequently shifting gears is pretty challenging.  I have personal experience with this as I operated a plow for a few hours while the other driver slept during the 2002-2003 blizzard season. I have a lot of respect for the men and women who do this on a regular basis.

Plow blades can push snow off to the side, but they cannot pick it up. With significant accumulation expected, the drivers will do everything possible to clear the widest lanes, but they may not be curb to curb. We often receive complaints that plows don’t clear paths close enough to parked vehicles. Bear in mind that these trucks can slide on ice and snow covered roads too, so plow drivers exercise extreme caution near parked vehicles, causing owners to have to shovel more to get vehicles out to the road.  Please park your vehicles off the roads and off to the sides of parking lots whenever possible.  It can also be difficult for plow blades to scrape down to black pavement, depending on the current conditions (how dry/wet the snow is, how fast it is coming down, how hard the wind is blowing, etc.)  With temperatures staying below freezing for the past several days, this will make the pavement harder to clear to blacktop.

We often hear complaints about driveways being plowed in.  Because plows are designed to push snow off to the side, snow is inevitably deposited at the end of a driveway as a byproduct, and this problem becomes more challenging with greater snowfalls.  When the volume of snow is great, snow storage space is minimal.  The plow drivers do their best to avoid this, but there is only so much that can be done to minimize this problem.  We suggest shoveling snow off to the right hand side of your driveway (as you face the street) to help reduce the snow wall at the end of your driveway apron.

Once again this season, the HOA has provided our contractors with a dedicated phone to handle snow emergency comments from our residents.  If you have an immediate concern regarding an HOA owned street or sidewalk, you may contact dispatch at 571-317-4369.  This phone will be monitored throughout the storm, but please leave a message if you do not reach dispatch immediately.  They may be handling other calls or plowing at the moment.  If you reside on a VDOT street, you may contact VDOT at 703-383-8368.  You may also visit http://vdotplows.org to track VDOT truck locations in real time.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.  While I cannot predict when the HOA office and Nature Center will reopen, I will monitor emails and phone messages to the HOA office remotely in order to provide prompt response to emergencies, provided that we maintain power at my home in Lovettsville.  Feel free to email me at sarah@broadlandshoa.com.

The following information has been distributed by Loudoun County Fire and Rescue:

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue reminds residents to take additional safety precautions for your home and personal safety.  Some critical safety tips to remember during extreme winter weather include:

  • Be aware of current road conditions and plan accordingly.  If travel is necessary; slow down; don’t travel alone; inform others of your schedule; stay on main roads and keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. It is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • To prevent pipes from freezing, locate the faucet the greatest distance from your main water shut off valve and allow faucet to drip cold water slowly.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep devices at least 20 ft. from doors, windows, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • Test all smoke alarms in your home and change batteries if necessary.  Smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom or sleeping area and on every level of the home.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them inspected and serviced annually.
  • Use caution when disposing of fireplace ashes or any flammable materials in or around your home.  Fireplace ashes, cigarette butts, and grill or fire pit remnants should be placed outside in a closed metal container, a safe distance away from any structures.
  • To avoid slips and falls in icy conditions, keep walkways clear and treated, wear proper foot gear with good traction and step slowly and carefully.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.  If you do shovel snow, stretch before going outside, push snow instead of lifting when possible, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Clear a three foot area around the fire hydrants in your neighborhood.  This simple task can save firefighters precious moments when responding to emergency incidents.
  • Stay informed!  Sign up for Alert Loudoun, www.loudoun.gov/alert and receive emergency information, news releases, traffic information, and more.  Also visit www.loudoun.gov/winter for additional weather related resources.

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