Winter is coming, a time when Terrace’s roads and sidewalks are blanketed with heavy, sparkling snow and ice. While pretty to look at, all that snow means city crews will be hard at work this season to make sure it’s cleared for drivers and pedestrians.
Snow removal crews were already deployed on Nov. 11 as wet snowflakes trickled down over Remembrance Day events downtown. With more snow in the forecast next week, director of public works Rob Schibli says the city’s team is ready to go.
“We’ll be moving into our regular winter shifts probably starting next week. During those shifts we have crews at work 24 hours a day, from Sunday night until Friday night,” Schibili says.
“We spend a lot of time in the winter monitoring forecasts and conditions in the outlying areas, and we do a lot of preparation to make sure we have salt on board for roads, and as the snow accumulates, we’ll move into clearing operations.”
The city’s snow removal fleet is comprised of two graders, three trucks equipped with plows and sanding units, two sidewalk plows, a loader equipped with a snowblower, a second loader with a large bucket, with backhoes to clear around fire hydrants downtown. Fourteen employees make up the team, with six positions for the night shift, and two to four positions during the day.
This year, the city is adding a $100,000 two-tonne truck with a front plow on the front and a sander in the back for sidewalks. This truck will be replacing an outdated model that wasn’t equipped for snow clearing, and will be used to clear smaller areas and spread salt across the city.
“It’s our first winter using it, so it’ll take a little bit of training, it’s a slightly different truck than our other units, and we’ll see how to use it most efficiently as time goes this winter,” Schibli says.
The city’s annual snowclearing budget varies between 20 to 25 per cent depending upon severity. Going into this winter, the city has $161,000 left in its road-clearing budget for the fiscal year which concludes the end of December. The sidewalk clearing budget has $47,000 remaining.
City roads are split into three priorities. The first is making sure the city’s arterial hills are in the best condition possible, including Kalum Hill and Lanfear Hill, because those roads tend to be more hazardous with snow and ice.
Once those are cleared, the city moves into clearing other arterial roads, school zones, and the area around the hospital, before moving into the downtown area and working outwards from there.
Downtown, crews do things a little differently — work primarily happens in the evenings, and because snow can’t be plowed onto the side, crews use another method.
“We move all the snow into the centre of the street and then we load it out using snow blowers, dump trucks and loaders, and we haul it to a snow dump,” Schibli says.
Unlike some other communities, the city takes on the responsibility of clearing pedestrian sidewalks, which can be challenging for crews using sidewalk plows.
“The equipment is smaller, it travels slower. It doesn’t have the weight or power to cut through hard compact snow like a large truck does, so it’s a little bit more difficult operation for us and a slower operation, but we try and focus on it as much as possible,” Schibli says.
If residents want to know when they can expect plows to go through their neighbourhood, they’re welcome to call the city for an update, he says.
Seniors in need of snow clearing for their properties can also fill out a registration form for the city’s snow removal program, where residents can get reimbursed by 50 per cent of the cost to hire a contractor to clear their property.
Enforced by city bylaw, residents are also reminded not to park on all streets, boulevards, alleys and highways in Terrace while snow removal is going on, which typically happens between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Nov. 1 to April 1.
“On local roads, we clear the snow to the side of the road, and if it’s blocked by vehicles parked along there for the long-term or even in short duration when we’re having an intense storm, it impedes our operations,” Schibli says. “We’re not able to fully clear the street, and having to come back for a second and third time can significantly slow our operations.”
Residents are responsible to clear their own driveways, keeping any snow piles off to the side of the driveway and not out onto the road, Schibli says.
“It makes a real hazard for the motoring public and it makes more snow that we pull off and then push back onto their driveways or their neighbour’s driveways. So clear driveways to the side, and not onto the street.”
With more snow on the way, Schibli says the city’s snow removal team is ready for it.
“It looks like winter will be upon us next week. It’s been unseasonably warm, but we’re ramped up and ready to go.”