Snow-removal crews are out in full force in Chilliwack tackling the first big snowstorm of 2019.
Chilliwack could see an estimated 30 centimetres of the white stuff by the end of the storm, forecast to end on Wednesday.
A few more streets than usual will get plowed due to road-priority upgrading, and there is more equipment out there than in previous winters, according to a City of Chilliwack spokesperson.
By Tuesday mid-morning there was a blanket of snow about 15 centimetres deep in some parts of Chilliwack, and another 10 to 15 cm potentially on the way.
The strategy for snow removal continues to focus on Priority 1 and Priority 2 roads, which include the arterial, hillside access, and high-volume roads.
Every year when snow starts to stick, Chilliwack citizens who get snowed in on residential streets will call city hall to find out why their street is not being plowed. The response is always the same — that the crews and equipment are busy ensuring the “priority” streets and hillsides are clear enough to be safely passable — before clearing any residential streets on the valley floor.
Here is the description of a Priority 1 road: “High volume and strategic arterial and collector roads, major access roads to hillside areas, access roads to fire stations, ambulance stations, police stations and Chilliwack General Hospital.”
When the Priority 1 and 2s are cleared enough for safety, crews respond next to the Priority 3s, which are the local connector roads and local roads of significance, according to a city spokesperson.
Priority 4 roads, which are the residential or “local” streets on the valley floor, only ever get plowed when everything else is safely passable, and resources can be freed up to respond.
Here is what they say about the chances of seeing a local street plowed: “Snow and ice control will not be carried out on local/residential roads unless resources are available and this is at the discretion of the Director of Operations, or designate.”
Chilliwack is one of the few Lower Mainland municipalities that actually will sometimes be able to dispatch equipment to plow residential roads, whereas most, about 70 per cent, do not ever clear them.
If there is an emergency on a residential street however, Chilliwack Fire officials will notify Operations, which will see GPS guided equipment dispatched quickly, to clear the road to allow emergency responders like ambulances to gain access.
City of Chilliwack made a few changes to improve its snow and ice clearing operations last year, after getting slammed with a couple of back-to-back bad winters.
Five additional medium-sized trucks have been upgraded with plows and sanders to access tighter roads like Wellington, for example, as well as cul-de-sacs, and some hillside areas that will see service faster. More training for operators of these newly modified trucks has been greenlighted.
A flat deck truck was modified to add on a brine dispensing tank, so crews have two brining trucks now. Brining before a storm helps melt the snow quicker than it would otherwise.
Another change some will notice is the snow fences that have been installed in areas that are known for drifting snow, like Prest Road and Evans Road.
When snow drifting is particularly bad due to blowing snow, it sucks up operations staff resources, who have to return to clear the same strip of road, over and over, to keep the drifts under control.
City staff started planting roadside shrubs to act as a natural snow fence in some areas, and are working with farmers in others to leave a 10-metre strip of corn in their fields to act as a natural snow fence.
City budget for winter operations keeps going up, and recent winters have seen drivers have to adjust for snowstorms that dump more snow on Chilliwack than many are used to. In 2016, the city spent about $1.4 million for snow and ice removal and most recently the budget by the end of 2018 was about $1.5 million.
This year about $1.2 million was budgeted for winter operations, which includes salt, sand, plowing and equipment contractors.
In terms of curbside collection in Chilliwack on Tuesday, trucks are out attempting collection. If unable to access waste or recycling due to snow, residents can leave twice the amount of materials for the next collection day. There is no green cart pickup of compostable materials on Tuesday, and the Parr Road Green Depot is closed for the day.