When it’s Good to be Fenced In!
Posted on December, 14th 2016
There is more to falling snow than painting the landscape into a winter wonderland; it can also create a plentiful amount of additional roadway safety hazards. Snow drifts, which are created by wind moving snow onto roadways, significantly impact safe travel. Snow drifts are common in rural areas where stretches of farmland or open fields exist, and can reduce visibility, sometimes to white-out conditions. Not only can visibility be severely diminished, but snow drifts may result in ice formation and a loss of control when driving, as well as burying informational roadway signage and pavement markings.
While a vast expanse of fluffy white snow might be aesthetically pleasing, it does not make for good traveling conditions. What happens when the roadway disappears?! How do agencies mitigate snow drifts? Often times, snow fences are used to greatly reduce the likelihood of dangerous snow drifts. Properly installed snow fences are economical- it supplements snow removal and reduces the chances for crashes.
Photo: Arizona Department of Transportation
Placing snow fences may seem like a simple process; however, there are various factors to be considered to ensure that the fence is situated in an optimal location. Establishing the correct height must be considered- a common average is four to six feet high, although the higher the fence, the more capacity it will have to stop snow from drifting. Knowing where particularly troublesome spots are and where snow drifts tend to occur in the roadway is important to determining where to place fencing. Similarly, being mindful of typical weather for the area is important- installation has to occur before the ground is frozen if posts have to be installed. Sometimes the right of way is too narrow to place standard fences at the recommended distance from the road an alternate design and engineering solution must be employed. There are multiple snow fence design software programs available; if you think your agency would benefit from installing snow fences this winter, please check some of the guidance available online:
- USDOT Strategic Highway Research Program Effective Snow Fences Video
- University of Wyoming Extension Garden Snow Fencing from the Ground Up Video
- Ohio State University Snow Fence: Tis the Season
- University of Iowa for Iowa Department of Transportation Optimization Snow Drifting Mitigation and Control Methods for Iowa Conditions