Applications & Innovations. Natural Barriers: Living Fences Block Blowing Snow

This article describes how sweeping winds during winter weather can cause dangerous conditions for motorists with greatly reduced visibility due to blowing snow and treacherous drifts if no wind protection is provided on rural sections of roadways. Addressing these safety concerns, combined with cost savings, environmental stewardship and highway beautification, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) living snowfence program has shown amazing results over its more than 40-year development. These windbreaks may reduce the amount of plowing needed, increasing safety by increasing visibility and keeping snow off the roadway, while also providing wildlife habitat and controlling erosion. Additional safety benefits were recently shown in research done in Wyoming. This testing showed pavement temperatures were higher in areas protected by snowfence when compared to unprotected sites. For states like Iowa that have severe winter weather, the ability to preserve higher pavement temperatures is critical to the effectiveness of salt and other chemicals used to combat the formation of ice on the roadway. Iowa’s long-standing living snowfence program, both on and off of the right-of-way, consists of planting a combination of trees and shrubs that serve as a windbreak, along with native grasses that help form a snow catch area for blowing and drifting snow. Iowa DOT project fund are used for living snowfence projects on highway rights-of-way. The rows are five feet apart and the shrubs are three feet apart within the row. The rows are staggered so the plant in one row fills the gap between plants in the adjacent row. With this spacing, Iowa DOT research has shown that the drifts downwind from these plantings will occur up to 10 to 12 times the heights of the shrubs. So by using 10-foot tall shrubs, the snow drifts will form up to 100 to 120 feet downwind.

  • Availability:
  • Corporate Authors:

    UC Berkeley Transportation Library

  • Authors:
    • Bramb, Tracey
  • Publication Date: 2009-11


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: pp 32-35
  • Monograph Title: Applications & Innovations. Natural Barriers: Living Fences Block Blowing Snow
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01147414
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 29 2009 11:58AM