A dog wanders along Sumas Prairie Road as people drive and dig through drifting snow on Thursday morning.

A dog wanders along Sumas Prairie Road as people drive and dig through drifting snow on Thursday morning.

Winter storm packs $550,000 bite for Chilliwack

Community spirit and the arrival of milder weather helped avert any serious flooding in Chilliwack over the weekend

Community spirit and the arrival of milder weather helped avert any serious flooding in Chilliwack over the weekend, said city officials.

Storm costs are pegged at $550,000 so far, but the figure could go up or down in the final analysis.

Many Chilliwack residents headed out into the streets over the weekend armed with shovels to help clear snow and ice that would have blocked catch basins leading to storm drains around their properties, and those of their neighbours’.

“We are so thankful to all those in our city who helped out with efforts to clean up after the wild weather we received,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “That demonstrated community spirit of looking after one another, is just one of the many reasons I’m proud to call Chilliwack home.”

By Monday morning, drainage stations were “nowhere near capacity,” ditch water levels were low and free flowing into the Vedder River, which is also low, according to the latest from staff.

City crews will continue to watch local culverts and remove blockages as needed.

“All the drainage stations and drainage pumps have been serviced and checked twice daily over the past week and this will continue this week until most of the snow has melted,” said Gaetz.

Three municipal facilities suffered some water damage over the weekend after frozen gutters were inundated with rainwater, including the Chilliwack library, Chilliwack Museum and the Cheam Leisure Centre.

A rear section of the museum suffered some drywall damage but the other two facilities saw only minor damage, which was not structural, but cosmetic in nature. None of the facilities had to be closed due to the water damage.

A roofer was on-site at the Cheam Centre Monday, making modifications to the gutter system, after rainwater pooled on the roof and then leaked into a hallway near the change rooms.

The active use of social media by City of Chilliwack proved to be highly effective at getting out storm information to residents quickly in the last 10 days of winter weather activity.

Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with Chilliwack road closure and up-to-the minute extreme weather information, said Starlee Renton, the city’s emergency information officer.

“One of the reasons why we started using social media is we thought it would be an effective tool to use in case of emergency,” she said.

People with smart phones were accessing Facebook or Twitter for updates.

“It was really effective this past week,” Renton said, especially in getting the info out “instantly.”

Some of the positive aspects of using social media are the immediacy and the direct lines of communication created.

“It’s faster than breaking news,” she said.

With the milder air moving in, officials are waiting for it to melt the snow on the side streets, which were the lowest priority for clearing.

The hillsides were the focus on Monday, as crews continued to salt frozen and icy roads.

Plowing has actually stopped completely on the valley floor as most residential streets are mostly covered in compact snow and ice.

“Operationally, it is not recommended to plow this material as it would create ‘ice boulders,’ and would end up on cleared driveways, sidewalks and catch basins.

“Our snow plows are not designed to plow frozen snow and ice and to do so would damage the equipment,” said Gaetz.

Members of the public are being asked to report any unusually high water levels in the ditches to public works at 604-793-2810.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno