The West Shore has been dealing with its first snow of the season over the past few days, and the crews charged with keeping the streets and sidewalks safe for residents say snow clearing operations are going smoothly so far.
Colwood Public Works fleet supervisor Mike Skillings said he and his team have been out early and working long days so far, but progress has been made easier thanks to uncommonly cold temperatures.
“With it being so cold, the snow is light and fluffy, it moves off the road very well,” said Skillings. “We don’t usually get this kind of snow, it’s usually the wet heavy stuff that starts breaking everything.”
But even with the actual snow clearing work being easier than usual, city staff are putting in long hours to ensure the job gets done. Skillings has put in more than 50 hours of overtime already.
Though it is too early in the winter season to say for sure, Skillings said the extra hours are not expected to impact the city’s budget for snow clearing as the department anticipated a worse than usual winter would follow the hotter than usual summer.
In neighbouring Langford, a city that contracts its snow clearing out, the past few days have been smooth sailing for the crews assigned to the area, thanks to the preparation work they put in ahead of time, director of engineering and public works Michelle Mahovlich said.
“They are working hard out there and we totally appreciate how much they are working, especially over Christmas. They seem to be managing to stay on top of it,” Mahovlich said.
She said with snow becoming more and more common in the region over the past few years, the city and its contractors have been able to draw from more experience when planning for the upcoming winter season.
Over the past few days however, they have run into an issue brought on by cold temperatures. The city uses a brine mixture to prevent ice buildup on roads, but that mixture can only be applied to bare roads.
The cold meant more snow stayed on the roads longer, forcing them to shift to sanding and plowing only, reducing their ability to completely clear away ice, Mahovlich said.
With that in mind, and with more snow on the way, both cities encourage motorists to stay off the road where possible during a storm, to slow down and drive according to the conditions and to avoid parking on streets to allow snow plows easier access.