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Mystery night noise in Red Deer is ‘sound of progress,’ says city roads superintendent

Plowing is on a 24-hour schedule for sake of efficiency: Greg Sikora.
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Is it a moose? Is it a whale?

That low-pitched moaning reverberating around Red Deer at night has been generating lots of social media questions — and even a few phone calls to the City of Red Deer.

Greg Sikora, the city’s parks and public works manager, wants to assure Red Deerians it’s nothing to worry about.

“In fact, I like to think of it as the sound of progress,” he said — as this noise comes from graders and other heavy-duty equipment scraping away ice and snow to get down to bare pavement.

He compares it to a whale sound, with its long, drawn-out pitch.

Both city crews clearing roads and private contractors plowing commercial parking lots are responsible for this noise. Sikora said it’s hard to differentiate since “we use the same kind of equipment.”

The sound is usually heard at night because the city’s new scheduled snow clearing program is running on a 24-hour schedule for the sake of efficiency. And often the best time to plow is at night, when there’s less traffic — especially in downtown Red Deer, said Sikora.

“That’s when we go to off-peak hours.”

But, as with train whistles, “what we hear is most noticeable when there’s less ambient noise.” Especially when it’s cold out, the scraping sound can be heard from one end of the city to another, he admitted.

Sikora said the city has received curious calls, rather than complaints, since everybody appreciates having safer roads.

The City of Red Deer’s new snow plowing program is proving successful. Sikora reports that all green bus routes were cleared in six days, compared to 15 to 20 days under the old program.

Since the new schedule operates on a round-the-clock basis, it required across-the-board parking bans on the routes being cleared.

Whether residential (grey) routes will need plowing this winter remains to be seen. Sikora said his staff are monitoring streets to determine whether to activate snow clearing.

Mild weather is melting recent snowfall, but if we get another two-to-three inches, residential plowing will likely be needed, he added.

If that happens, 24-hour parking bans will again take effect on all residential streets. Sikora noted all properties are supposed to have off-street parking for at least two vehicles. Those with more cars could always park their vehicles along already cleared green routes as grey routes are plowed.

The great thing about the new snow clearing program is that everybody will get 12-24 hours notice before plowing starts, “and when we say we’re going to be there, we will be there,” added Sikora.