Heavy snowfall and icy roads have made highway travel a challenge in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. (Michael Briones photo)

Heavy snowfall and icy roads have made highway travel a challenge in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. (Michael Briones photo)

Oceanside RCMP deal with variety of incidents due to icy roads in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Heavy snowfall, rain make clearing operations challenging

Oceanside RCMP had a busy morning dealing with vehicle incidents due to slippery road conditions on Tuesday (Jan. 5).

Sgt. Shane Worth indicated most were vehicles hitting icy patches on the road and ending up in ditches or upside down, disrupting the flow of traffic and causing long delays.

“This morning we had a few reports of crashes up on the highway, mostly cars not being able to maintain traction on black ice,” said Worth. “We had seven reports of motor vehicle incidents since this morning. But nothing was serious.”

Worth said roads were extremely icy and in one instance they had to wait for maintenance crews to clear the highway.

READ MORE: Parksville officials detail plan for dealing with snow, icy conditions

Worth advises all motorists to slow down and be patient on the road when the conditions are not ideal.

“They should take their time and make sure they have the appropriate winter tires in their vehicle,” said Worth. “And leave early. If it takes you 45 minutes to go to work in Nanaimo, give yourself an hour or an hour-in-a-half on days like this. You have to look at the weather forecast to make sure you know what you’re dealing with.”

Mainroad Mid-Island Contracting LP is the company hired by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to service the Central Vancouver Island highway, from Chemainus to Bowser.

The City of Parksville and the Town of Qualicum Beach service their own respective road infrastructures. Both municipalities have indicated the heavy snowfall and rain events have made the situation challenging.

“With the amount of snow, it is not possible to keep all routes cleared at all times,” said Deb Tardiff, Parksville communications manager. “Keeping arterial routes clear is the city’s priority.”

Qualicum Beach’s acting CAO Heather Svensen indicated as soon as the forecast was 60 per cent chance of flurries, they immediately had staff on standby for unexpected conditions.

“By Christmas Day at 8 a.m., a snowfall warning had been issued and there was 10 centimetres of snow on the ground.” said Svensen. “Equipment operators were called in shortly after the snow started and the main roads were kept open all day Christmas day and night. Multiple operators worked on Boxing Day to open up sidewalks and roads, including the airport.”

Tardiff pointed out they have prepared as much as they can for unexpected events. She added operators have gone through refresher training and that all of snow equipment was prepped and tested.

“Crews worked 12-hour shifts, 24/7, from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31,” said Tardiff. “Additional shifts were scheduled Jan. 1 through today. The snow events occurred during Christmas holidays so our crews were not able to be with their families.”

Both municipalities also had to use salt to melt the snow. But when temperature drops to below -6 C, Tardiff said salt cannot be used. So far, the city has already used more than 128 tons of salt and 37 tons of sand.

Svensen indicated the mix of rain, sleet and snow that fell overnight on Jan. 3, topped with the freezing temperatures, created icy roads throughout the town. Salt was applied but with minimal traffic to crush it up and track, coupled with an extremely hard layer of ice, Svensen said it took some time for the ice to melt and road conditions to improve.

“Throughout the snowfalls over the last 10 days, less than five complaints were received by staff,” said Svensen. “Many of our staff members put in long hours and sacrificed time with family to keep the roads and sidewalks clear and safe during the holidays. Our equipment has held up well, and we are now preparing for another forecast event to arrive in the next few days.”

Both municipalities advise the public to refer to their respective snow and ice control policies. For Parksville, you can go online at https://www.parksville.ca/cms.asp?wpID=356.

For Qualicum Beach you can read it at Qualicum Beach – Document Center (civicweb.net).

“Our goal is to reduce the inconvenience of winter conditions for traveling public and pedestrians to the greatest degree possible within our operational and financial resources,” said Svensen.

The Town of Qualicum Beach will undertake snow and ice control through a prioritized program developed with the assistance of the RCMP, fire department, Emergency Health Services, School District 69, regional transit, Telus, BC Hydro and the Qualicum Beach Emergency Program.

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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