Heavy snowfall kept crews working long hours to clear streets, city says

Snow clearing over budget

Icy temperatures and consistent, heavy snowfall have posed a challenge for the city’s snow clearing crews this winter.

Glen Farrow, the City of Kamloops’ streets and environmental services manager, said it’s been a “fairly abnormal winter” compared to previous years in Kamloops, keeping crews working long hours to clear roads.

“With the amount of snow that we have received, and then the cold temperatures that have been kind of locked in for three months, it's definitely been a challenge,” Farrow said.

Farrow said the constant snowfall events “day after day after day” had crews unable to get to local roads as quickly as some members of the public might expect — even though they still met service levels.

According to the city, the goal is to maintain one lane’s worth of bare wheel paths on arterial roads, such as Fortune Drive, Columbia Street and the Summit Connector, for as long as possible while it snows, regaining the bare wheel paths within four hours after a snowfall event.

Crews work to have one lane of bare wheel paths cleared along bus and collector routes, like Lethbridge Avenue, Springhill Drive and Ord Road, within 16 hours after snowfall.

The goal is to have residential streets plowed — but not necessarily returned to a bare pavement condition — within 36 hours after the end of a snowfall event. Streets on hills are prioritized above those on flat ground.

However, the timeframes for street clearing are reset each time there is a new snowfall event.

“Every time it starts snowing again, we have to go back to address those main arterial roads. So it's definitely a balancing and juggling act. And that's really what we're in the thick of right now too, which is a constant challenge as well,” Farrow said.

“We’re dealing with ice, we’re dealing with large, large windrows on the edge of roads that are in some cases, narrowing the roads. And now we're also dealing with potholes. So our crews are stretched very thin. And they're continuing to work long, hard hours, 24 hours a day, as they have been for months now.”

The City of Kamloops announced this week that crews will be removing snow from the downtown area.

“We will see over the coming days more snow being blown just on the edge of roadway or hauled away entirely,” Farrow said.

“Our main focus is where it's impeding traffic and narrowing the roadway to a less than ideal road width. So when you have a bus and a garbage truck going right beside one another, we want to ensure that it’s still a safe movement.”

Farrow said snow removal came in slightly over budget for 2021, spending just over $2 million on snow clearing largely due to December’s weather. The budget was $1.9 million.

“December was a very challenging month with the amount of material we were required to put down, the amount of sand that we were required to put down, as well as the the staffing levels that we needed to serve to ensure that we're meeting our service levels,” he said.

In 2021, city council approved plans to enhance snow and ice clearing near the sidewalks at transit stops. Farrow said clearing transit stop areas is now the responsibility of the city parks division.

“It's been great. It just shares the the challenge and problem across a larger staff group. And we're able to do a better job of the streets as well as the sidewalks by sharing that around,” Farrow said.

Previously, he said, a four-foot opening in the windrow would be cleared to allow access to the bus, but the bus wouldn’t be able to pull completely over to the sidewalk.

Now, the crews are clearing out a larger area so buses can continue to pull over to the side of the road, making transit more accessible while snow is on the ground.

Farrow said it’s important for the public to understand the city’s service levels, and that everyone has a role to play when the snow starts to fall.

“Large employers like the school district have a role to play in clearing snow. Business owners have a role in clearing snow on their sidewalks, residents have a role to play on placing the snow from their sidewalks and from their driveways within their own property, not onto the road. So everyone has a role to play in that,” Farrow said.

“No one likes the snow, no one likes the winters that we have — but we all need to work together and ensure we're placing that snow in the most appropriate place.”

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