Late December winter storm has Chilliwack city crews working non-stop

Hundreds of tonnes of salt and sand spread on roads every 24 hours

With fresh memories of winter storms a year ago, Chilliwack was more prepared than usual for the snow and ice that hit this week.

Still, with 11 centimetres of snow on the ground, when the freezing rain hit on Thursday it led to motor vehicle accidents, some power outages, and delays on the transit system.

As city crews plowed roads across the city, 10.8 millimetres of freezing rain came down that day, according to local Environment Canada volunteer weather observer Roger Pannett.

“Everything is encased in more than one centimetre of ice accretion,” Pannett said.

As the snow started to fall on the ice on Friday, city hall shifted from simple snow clearing to dealing with the icy roads and “hazardous driving conditions.”

This week city crews were spreading approximately 350 tonnes of salt and 150 tonnes of sand every 24 hours.

Since Dec. 26, the city had 25 to 30 staff members working a 12-hour day shift and 20 others working a 12-hour night shift, continuing into the weekend.

Staff were using 12 tandem and single-axle plow/sander units, found medium-duty plow/sander units, and two graders. After last year’s dump of snow led to council authorizing the purchase of four new medium-sized plow/sander units, which have been in full-time use, according to a city spokesperson.

“Council also authorized the purchase of additional snow blowers which were in use during the initial snowfall [last] week.”

The entire transit system in Chilliwack was temporarily shut down on Thursday, but by noon most routes were back up and running. By Friday, a limited service was running with the Route 22 to Hope shut down completely.

Fire crews were also busy late last week attending to utility and power lines downed or sagging from the snow and ice.

And while the storm caused numerous problems, more Chilliwack residents than ever were prepared thanks in part to last winter’s onslaught, but also a taste of winter in early November.

• READ MORE: Forecast snow means busy days for Lower Mainland tire shops

Winter tires were a hot commodity at tires shops across the city, an investment many drivers will be glad they made.

After last winter, not just drivers but also city hall learned a lesson.

Between December 2016 and February 2017, Chilliwack was hit hard with snow and ice, seriously challenging the operations department to keep up with plowing and sanding. After that, the snow control policy was reviewed and changes were approved in September to help tackle road clearing better for winter 2017/2018.

In 2016, the city spent $1.4 million for snow and ice removal, the bulk of that annual budget was spent in December. The 2017 snow removal budget was put at just over $1 million, a figure being stressed in late December.

Tackling snowstorms at the start of 2017 cost an estimated $85,000 a day in materials, snow removal equipment and labour.

As of Friday, a winter storm warning was still in effect for Chilliwack, with a forecast for 10 to 15 centimetres of snow, approximately five centimetres more on Saturday before things clear out to sunshine.

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