Responding to Winnipeg’s Record Snow Fall

My office has been receiving many inquiries regarding snow removal on streets, back lanes and sidewalks and we’ve been working to keep up with the inquiries.

Please know that an EXTRAORDINARY amount of snow results in a snow removal schedule that is not ‘ordinary’.  Following three back-to-back snow storms in the last month, City crews are continuing day and night with an extensive clean-up operation to improve the overall condition of streets, sidewalks, active transportation trails and back lanes.

Heavy accumulation of snow and high winds resulted in the need for continuous plowing and sanding with over 400 pieces of heavy equipment in order to keep the city moving. Winnipeggers’ patience is appreciated while a variety of snow clearing activities continue in the days ahead.

PLEASE REPORT any snow removal issues or service requests to 311 – phone 311 or EMail  Reporting to 311 serves several functions. It puts you in the queue for service; creates a record and number for your service request (for future reference and follow up); and enables supervisors to identify areas experiencing frequent issues and often will result in more timely action.

My thanks to CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press for reporting on the City’s continuing efforts to clear away our record snowfall.

City sidewalk clearing underway, councillor says

By Aidan Geary, CBC News Posted: Dec 30, 2016 9:22 PM CT

City Coun. Janice Lukes said city crews are working around the clock to remove snow, but sidewalks pose a special challenge. She said the city is one of a handful in Canada that clears all its sidewalks — roughly 2,000 kilometres.

She expects crews to clear downtown sidewalks again after snow mounds beside them are removed.

“The challenge with the sidewalks …  is we have to store the snow,” she said.

“The operators put the snow on the median. Sometimes the snow falls onto the sidewalk. We’ve had a couple operators that unfortunately have used the sidewalk for storage area. Sometimes the median is small and there’s nowhere to store the snow.

“But they have to get it off the road, and then they come along with the plows and they’ll remove the stored snow that’s on the side. But there’s a gap in time in between, and that’s the challenge.”

Sidewalk snow blowers also move slower than street snow removal machinery, she said — about 25 per cent of the pace of a snow plow. They also break down faster, she said.

The sidewalk blowers are followed by graders to clear the sidewalks further, but only once the mounds that develop alongside pathways have been cleared. Lukes said sidewalks also require more attention to detail than streets.

“It’s very complicated. It’s complex,” Lukes said. “There’s a lot of variables at play, and there’s a heck of a lot of snow.”

This year has been especially difficult because of wind and the sheer volume of snow, she said. Environment Canada previously estimated the city will see 80 centimetres by the end of the month.

Lukes advised anyone who encounters an issue to email 311 every time.

“It’s really challenging living in a very snowy city with accessibility issues. Without a doubt that’s a challenge,” she said. “[With] once in a century snowfall like this — that’s a lot more challenging.”

Lukes said the city is currently looking at broadening the enhanced sidewalk clearing network downtown, studying what it would take and how much it would cost.

“You’re trying to harness Mother Nature,” she said. “When you’re trying to harness Mother Nature with machines, there’ll always be a battle.”

with files from Teghan Beaudette


Little mountains on the prairie

City urges patience after snowfall of ‘historic proportions’


There’s more snow than the city can reasonably remove, and it’s causing slippery streets, impassable sidewalks and treacherous intersections.

After Winnipeg’s second-snowiest December on record — with 68.8 centimetres — and more snow at the start of the new year, Winnipeg drivers may feel they need a mirror on a selfie stick to see past mountains of snow on many street corners.

The third major snowfall in less than a month dropped seven cm of snow on city streets Monday night and Tuesday morning. Even though streets have been plowed several times, they still have high snowbanks at nearly every intersection.

“Right now, basically, the on-site boulevard storage of snow is essentially full,” said Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood, Tuxedo, Whyte Ridge), who chairs the infrastructure, renewal and public works committee, which includes snow clearing. “It’s important that people understand that we do go back and haul away much of the snow that was deposited on boulevards, and that’s a major operation.

“In addition to improving sightlines, we haul away that on-site storage so that we’re prepared for future snowfall if we have to go through what we have done in December.”

“Given the historic amounts of snow that have fallen, the City of Winnipeg and its contractors have done an incredible job of getting the streets opened up,” Morantz said.

“We are a winter city, of course, but the degree of snowfall that we’ve seen in the last four weeks is certainly of historic proportions. What we’ve seen, really, is an extraordinary effort and largely successful effort in getting our streets and sidewalks and lanes cleared. There are always going to be areas where we can try to do things even better, but our snow-clearing policy is very comprehensive compared to most other cities in the country.”

He said many cities in Canada don’t clear sidewalks, others don’t plow residential streets and many don’t scrape residential streets.

Clearing snowbanks is a regular part of the operation, and a city spokeswoman said relief is on the way.

“A major snow-hauling operation is in progress in all areas of the city to improve sightlines at intersections and to remove excess snow,” she stated in an email.

In the meantime, drivers are urged to be patient and cautious.

“High snowbanks present challenges for motorists,” said Brian Smiley, spokesman for Manitoba Public Insurance.

“When visibility is blocked by a high snowbank, a motorist is advised to enter the roadway slowly and cautiously. In some situations, you may want to select another route that takes the motorist to a controlled intersection in order to enter safely.”

He said MPI doesn’t track collisions due to high snowbanks.

“However, we do know by talking to customers that some collisions are due to blocked visibility caused by high snowbanks,” Smiley said.

Morantz said he doesn’t know the exact cost, but it will be millions of dollars to haul away all the snow.

“It will certainly have an impact on our snow-clearing budget. Now in 2017, we’re into a new budget year and this will be a fairly large dent, I’d have to say, in our snow-clearing budget for 2017,” Morantz said.

Snow collected from boulevards and corners will be hauled to the city’s snow-disposal sites, which may take several days.

When open, the sites are available to the public 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The north area’s site is on McPhillips Street, 1.25 kilometres south of the Perimeter Highway; the east area’s site is at the South End Water Pollution Control Centre, which is south of the Perimeter Highway and east of St. Mary’s Rd.; and the south area’s site is at the West End Water Pollution Control Centre, which is on the south side of Wilkes and west of the Perimeter Highway. The Kenaston Boulevard site closed Dec. 30 after its capacity of 350,000 cubic metres was reached.

Motorists are advised to observe the city’s annual parking ban on snow routes, which is in effect from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. each day until March 1. Snow routes are clearly marked with signs, and are designated as a top priority to ensure that emergency vehicles can travel around the city.

Vehicles parked in violation of the annual snow route parking ban can receive a $100 ticket and may be towed.

December 2016 is officially Winnipeg’s second snowiest December in 144 years of records, David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said

“The grand total for the month of December was 68.8 centimetres of snow,” Phillips said, noting the average snowfall for Winnipeg in December is 23 cm. Winnipeg had about three times the usual amount of snow fall during December. “Winnipeg’s snowiest December on record was 101.3 centimetres back in December of 1909.”

He said December is typically Winnipeg’s second snowiest month of the year next two January when an average of 23.7 cm of snow.

“If you look at all months, back to the 1870s, it (December 2016) comes out to be the seventh snowiest month (on record for Winnipeg),” said Phillips. Edging out last month for sixth place was March 1904 with 76.2 cm.

December 1909, with its 101.3 cm, stands as Winnipeg’s all-time snowiest month on record. The most recent snowiest month, prior to December 2016, was November 1958 which saw 77.2 cm of snow fall and is in fifth place all-time. Records date back to 1872.

While no more snow is expected to fall until Thursday, Environment Canada meteorologist Natalie Hasell said the temperature will drop to bone-chilling levels.

She said the cold is expected to continue through the week with lows in the -20s with wind chills in the high -30s and could reach -40 C.

“Temperatures are colder than -19 C until Sunday so if we have any wind, we could see, especially overnight and early morning when we have the coldest temperatures, near warning values for wind chill in Southern Manitoba,” she said.

The threshold for a wind chill warning in Southern Manitoba is -40 C.

“People should still be taking precautions when outside. You should be covering exposed skin and be aware of how long you expect to be outside,” Hasell said.
Read more by Ashley Prest.