Winter weather arrived pretty much on schedule last weekend — which means the City of Red Deer was fully prepared with sanding crews to make slippery roads safer.
Public works manager Greg Sikora said his department reschedules workers at the end of every October to ensure there’s a round-the-clock rotation of crews ready to put sand or salt brine down on roads and bridges whenever it’s needed.
Sunday, workers were put to the test when some 600 kilometres of local roadways were blanketed by snow that fell on top of icy rain.
“There are challenges whenever you’re going through significant weather and road temperature changes” — as happened with Sunday’s dramatic temperatures drop, said Sikora.
The “complicating factor” was the freezing rain, he added.
When roads begin to freeze, he noted, snow doesn’t stick to them anymore — so the city’s public works department needs to ensure motorists don’t lose control on hills and bridges.
Three city trucks with a crew of about 14 people were deployed at around 11 p.m. Sunday to lay a salty brine solution that melts ice on hills and bridges. This took until about 2 a.m. Monday.
To continue preparing for Monday morning commuters, about 12 sanding trucks began to lay a “pickled sand” mixture on major traffic corridors, such as Gaetz Avenue, Ross Street, Taylor Drive, 32nd and 67th streets.
Sikora said the sand is mixed with about five per cent road salt.
These sanding trucks were on standby, as Sikora’s department had been preparing for the onset of winter since August, with machinery inspections and maintenance.
The trucks are loaded from a massive 14,000-tonne pile of sand that sits under a roof in the city’s civic yards. City public works crews spread this on icy roads when temperatures are between zero and about -12 C.
A different mixture is applied to icy streets when the air temperature is between -12 and -20 C.
Below -20 C, nothing really works as a de-icing agent, said Sikora, whose department has a $5.3-million budget for clearing winter roads — slightly more than last year.
Although Red Deer hasn’t yet been hit with a huge snowfall, the city’s 13 plows and six graders are also ready to go when needed, he added. (Contractors also contribute to the snow-clearing effort).
Once the highest priority bridges and arterial roads are cleared, neighbourhood plowing is done according to a schedule that changes slightly every winter.
Meanwhile, Sikora encourages anyone who needs sand for their driveways to come and load up for free from a yellow box at the entrance to the city’s civic yard, on 40th Avenue, north of 77th Street.
He also encourages city residents to sign up for the Alert system that gives advance notifications of snow plowing routes. It can be done on the city’s website, www.reddeer.ca.