Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Living Snow Fences

Control blowing and drifting snow

image of living snow fence


Using road design and snow fences to control snow on roadways

Drift-free roads are achievable through two mitigation strategies: proper road design and/or the use of snow fences. A suitably designed roadway will promote snow deposition in ditches rather than on the roadway, and blowing snow that does reach the road will move across without drifting. Snow fences can also help maintain clear roadways by capturing blowing snow upwind of a problem area and storing that snow over the winter season.

Snow climatology

The topography, land-use characteristics and winter climate for much of Minnesota cause this area to be particularly vulnerable to blowing and drifting snow on roadways. The end result of the problem often includes a reduction in driver safety, degradation of road quality, and significant removal costs for drifted snow.

Highway Project Development Process (HPDP) guidance


GEOPAK Snow Drift Analysis Tool

Survey elevation data is needed for running the snowdrift analysis (PDF) on the road surface.

Finding Fence Setback on Shallow Slopes

An Excel-based tool (XLSX) factors in the ditch's depth and width to determine the right-of-way needed from the center line to best place fences in order to achieve drift-free roads.

Finding Fence Setback on Steep Slopes or Embankments

An Excel-based tool (XLSX) factors in multiple row fences based on the elevation of the road above the surrounding topography and on modifying the ditch's cross-sections.