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January 19, 2024

Reminder, Philly: Shovel your snow or face fines

Officials reiterated Friday that property owners who don't clear sidewalks could face fines ranging from $50 to $300

Weather Snow
Snow shoveling requirements Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK

As heavy snowfall came Friday, Philadelphia officials reminded residents of their obligation to shovel snow from their sidewalks — or face fines as high as $300 per violation. The above photo shows a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, shoveling snow in 2023.

As snow blanketed Philadelphia on Friday, people in the city broke out their shovels. More than a neighborly gesture, the act of shoveling the sidewalk in front of one's home is a legal obligation for Philadelphia residents — and it can be an expensive one to ignore.

By Saturday, Philadelphia could see up to 7 inches of snow. It's the first time Philly has seen this much snowfall in a record-breaking stretch of time, but as far as the city is concerned, that's no excuse for residents and businesses failing to perform their neighborly duty of keeping sidewalks clear.

In Philadelphia, property owners and businesses and are required to shovel a path at least 3 feet wide along the sidewalk. This must be done within six hours after snow stops falling. The potential fine for failing to shovel is between $50 to $300.

Residents are expected to avoid shoveling snow into the street, which can hamper city workers' efforts to keep roadways clear, and to shovel around fire hydrants so firefighters can access them in the event of an emergency. The recommended clearance around a hydrant is between three and five feet.

While Philadelphia's shoveling rules have been in place for years, city officials reminded residents of them during a press conference Friday morning, which was held by the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management in conjunction with Mayor Cherelle Parker and Managing Director Tumar Alexander.

Dominick Mireles, the OEM's director, said Philadelphians should be careful while shoveling. "When it comes to snow removal, pace yourself," he said. "You don’t have to get it all done at once. Do it in 15-minute increments."

The city also advised residents to avoid overextending themselves physically, encouraging them to stop and take a break if they start sweating while shoveling. Among other potential health risks, the strenuous activity of shoveling can trigger heart attacks in some people. 

Mireles encouraged the use of products like deicer or cat litter to help clear snow. Where possible, Mireles said that residents should help their neighbors by shoveling extra snow beyond their immediate properties, especially for those who are elderly or recovering from a recent medical procedure. 

For more information on snow removal, Philly residents can look at the Department of Streets' website. Improperly cleared sidewalks can be reported online or by using the city's 311 app