Snow Clearing (UPDATED)

Updated (February 2022):

We gritted our teeth in anticipation this week as another 10cm of snow fell on a city that was still working on digging out from the storm of January 17. We were told that staff were prepared for the next storm after trucking away nearly 100,000 tonnes of snow from almost 1,500km of roads. But many residents were telling a different story about missed sidewalks, or roads too narrow for two-way traffic. Confidence in the snow clearing system remained badly shaken.


This frustration bubbled over at City Hall this week with Councillors, including John, moving a series of motions calling for more communication, more accountability and an all-round better plan for dealing with major snow events. Recommendations on how to improve the City's response is due back in March. Occasionally, it's reasonable to expect that Mother Nature may overwhelm a prudent level of preparation. But when that happens, the City should have a sensible triage plan, residents should expect clear communication on progress and timelines, and their councillors should expect that information to keep residents informed.


Original Post (January 2022):

After a near-record dumping of snow on Monday, we've received many complaints about the city's snow removal efforts. While it's always possible to do a better job, crews have been working 24/7 and, short of calling in the army as Mel Lastman famously did more than 20 years ago, we're going as fast as we can.


It took several days for plows to reach all local roads. In many cases, sidewalks are still being cleared. Some locations are more difficult because there is nowhere to pile the snow that's been cleared.


Many complaints are about failure to clear the windrows that the plow leaves at the end of your driveway. This is largely due to the volume of snow and the need to focus resources on getting the roads cleared. Windrows often require a second plow that follows the first, and with plows either in short supply or having to move as efficiently as possible, many were initially missed.


The City has also had to address parked or abandoned vehicles in roadways, including 500 City buses, that have further slowed plowing operations. On Wednesday, the City started towing cars parked on designated routes. The situation will improve as teams continue to work.


Although this was an unusual event, there are lessons for the City to take from the clearing operations. One particular concern raised by John with senior staff was prioritizing snow clearing on sidewalks near schools to address the chaos witnessed by many parents this week as kids were back in class.