City keeps an eye on the weather

City of Red Deer’s snow clearing managers were keeping a close eye on the sky on Wednesday.

A Public Works snow blower and Setters and Sons dump truck make their way north on Northey Avenue Wednesday.

A Public Works snow blower and Setters and Sons dump truck make their way north on Northey Avenue Wednesday.

City of Red Deer’s snow clearing managers were keeping a close eye on the sky on Wednesday.

With the highest priority routes cleared, plows, graders and other equipment were out in force tackling the next priority targets on the list. In this case, it was Normandeau and Glendale, where snow clearing equipment was directed to the main collector routes: streets used by buses and next to schools.

As the snow drifted down on and off throughout the day, the question is will enough snow fall to require sending equipment back to higher priority routes.

“When it starts to snow like this it requires us to monitor the conditions of our Priority Ones and Twos,” said city Public Works manager Greg Sikora. “If needs be, we’ll return back to those.”

Priority One roads are bridges, hills, hazardous areas, high-collision intersections and hospital access. Priority Two are the city’s main arterial routes, such as Gaetz Avenue, Ross Street, 67th Street and other similar high-traffic routes.

The steady snowfall hadn’t dumped enough to warrant pulling all crews off those jobs to return to higher priority targets, said Sikora.

However, sanding trucks were dispatched to hit icy patches.

Crews finished removing snow piled in the downtown area around the hospital and on the Ross Street and Spruce Drive hills on Tuesday night.

If a big dump is avoided, the city will continue the eight-to-10-day job of clearing the Priority Three roads, which include bus routes and other neighbourhood collector roads.

Environment Canada was predicting the cold snap will continue with two to four centimetres of snow expected Wednesday and today.

Public Works has been fielding a lot of snow-related calls over the last few days. Many of them are related to drifting, with some residents complaining they can’t park on the street in front of their homes.

“In our department I don’t have a problem receiving calls because it’s the public’s means to keep us informed on where the critical pressure points are. And we take those (calls) in and we address them as quickly as possible,” Sikora said.

Even though the priority ranking system hasn’t reached local residential roads, crews will be sent to clear a path for vehicles if callers say a route has become impassable. Lanes are also cleared when needed so garbage trucks can make their rounds.

Sikora said snow clearing is going on 24 hours a day. Two snow clearing shifts work 12 hours a day and they can each haul away 100 truckloads or more of snow per shift.

Besides the city’s own equipment, graders, plows, loaders and dump trucks have also been hired from private companies to speed up the work.

“We basically more or less doubled our operations to address this last go.” Five graders were hired to work alongside the city’s four graders and more than a dozen snowplow and sanding trucks are in action.

“Collectively, we’ve got about 50 people daily working on snow and ice through hired equipment and our own staff.”

Sikora said residents can help by staying 20 metres back of equipment and not crowding operators as they go about their work.

So far this year, about $200,000 has been spent on snow and ice control.

Last year’s budget was $2.18 million and early estimates are that snow clearing came in $40,000 higher than that.

A complete review of the city’s snow and ice control policy, in place since 2004, will be done this year and will involve extensive community input.

A snow and ice control map showing the five priority levels and the corresponding streets is available online at www.reddeer.ca (go to the Public Works page).

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.