Transportation Defined: Snow Fence

Transportation Defined: Snow Fence

January 28, 2015

Snow fences help save time and resources.

As those in the northeast endure a major snow storm, many might believe that Arizona has it pretty easy in the wintertime...

But, as anyone who lives here knows, there are some seriously snowy spots in this state. So snowy, in fact, that snow fences are utilized by ADOT in certain areas to help shield the roads from snow drifts.

Never heard of a snow fence? ADOT Highway Operations Supervisor Chris Massey explains that they are used by ADOT to help prevent wind-blown snow or snowdrifts from accumulating on the roads.

“It definitely serves a purpose,” he said. “The snow fencing limits the time we have to be out there in plow trucks.”

According to ADOT’s Winter Storm Management Operations Manual, snow fences are long, fixed standing structures that are strategically placed to control drifting snow and improve motorist visibility. Snow fences can minimize the amount of chemical additives or abrasives required and/or the amount of snow to plow.


Snow fences are designed to prevent snow from drifting across the highway.

Made from aluminum or sometimes steel, the snow fences work because they create a disturbance in the wind, which then causes the snow to drop from the air in front of the fence, as opposed to other areas (like on the highway).

These aren’t just useful during snow storms. It can be a sunny day, but if the wind picks up and there’s snow on the ground, snow fences can help prevent snow accumulation on the roads.

Accurate placement of the fencing is important – otherwise it won’t do its job. Massey explains that the distance from the fence to the road must be 35 times the height of the fence (they’re roughly 12-14 feet tall). ADOT uses the fences on sections of SR 260 and SR 273 and they’re located based on the predominant direction of the wind.

The snow fences are secured to the ground with deadman anchors and, as you’d imagine, they take quite a beating from the wind. Regular maintenance and year-round attention is important to keep the fences functional.

In the news
You might have heard that nearly $400,000 worth of snow fencing was stolen from ADOT in the White Mountains. Check out this recent news release for more details, including information on how you can contact law enforcement if you have any information.

Transportation Defined is a series of explanatory blog posts designed to define the things you see on your everyday commute. Let us know if there's something you'd like to see explained ... leave a comment here on the blog or over on our Facebook page!

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