Preparing for a pounding

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Amount, frequency of snowfall frustrating snowclearing efforts: city

As snow continues to blanket the St. John’s metro area, radio talk show lines, social media and opinion pages are inundated with complaints about snowclearing: driveways rendered impassable by ridges of ice and snow deposited by snowplows, streets narrowed by snowdrifts and pedestrians forced by buried sidewalks to dodge traffic while walking on the road.

In anticipation of today’s snowstorm, which is forecast to continue into Saturday and dump more than 30 centimetres of snow on the capital city region, City of St. John’s crews were out clearing away snow from the congested city streets Thursday afternoon, such as on Craigmillar Avenue in the city’s west end. The recent onslaught of snow has dumped about 100 centimetres of snow over St. John’s, Mount Pearl and area.

In a letter to The Telegram last week, David Coish of St. John’s decried the city’s “abysmal record of keeping the roads safe for all our citizens,” drawing supportive responses from several readers.

Paul Mackey, the city’s director of public works, acknowledged this winter has been more challenging than usual — and with much more snow expected this evening and Saturday morning, it’s not likely to get easier soon.

On Thursday, the city prohibited parking on the south side of Water Street to help traffic flow more freely. The parking ban is likely to remain in place for a few days, until the city is able to remove the snow, which Mackey said likely wouldn’t happen until after this weekend’s snowfall.

“If you get a couple of very large vehicles meeting there, like two buses or transport trucks, it sometimes creates a problem,” said Mackey. “It’ll probably last for a few days, until we get an opportunity to get down there and do a removal. We’re expecting a storm, so that’ll likely delay any removal on Water and Duckworth for at least a couple of days. We’re down doing removal in some of the residential areas downtown tonight.”

Some of the downtown residential streets are more congested right now than some of the commercial streets, said Mackey, making them a higher priority. Mackey said this winter has gotten off to one of the most challenging starts in years.

“We haven’t had any huge individual storms, but the accumulation and the amount on the ground and, of course, the cold temperatures — we’re not getting any melt — that’s all contributing to the accumulation,” he said. “It’s certainly very high for this early in the wintertime.”

Mackey said the city will review its snowclearing efforts to identify problem areas to try to improve future operations.

“We’re constantly getting feedback from the public in terms of suggestions or ideas or complaints,” he said. “If they have merit, we’ll investigate further and we bring forward recommendations to council for major issues.”

Plowing and ice control has been going well, said Mackey. Not as successful: snow removal.

“That’s more a function of frequency of the storm. We’re not getting enough time between the storms to do it how we’d like to do it. But that’s just the nature of the way the weather has been working.”

Geographic location: Water Street

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Recent comments

  • Ed
    January 03, 2014 - 12:39

    Maybe if the roads were plowed and widened properly the first time there would be less need to come back a 3rd and 4th time. It seems to me that a truck or loader with a front and a wing blade should be able to complete a normal road in two passes. However after the road is opened we get 2 or 3 passes to widen it just 2 or 3 hours apart with a small amount of snow being pushed into the driveway each time. This make it impossible for older residents to keep their driveways open.