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‘Asphalt plants are closed this time of year, so we don't have access to hot mix'

TRURO - Are you sick of winter yet? If so, you most likely aren't alone.

Roads throughout the Town of Truro were snow covered and slippery early Thursday after Mother Nature dropped some thick, heavy flakes on the area.

But this year's winter hasn't been an unusual one, according to David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"Comparing it to others is a little difficult, but it's nothing unusual," said Phillips. "If it was setting a record for snowfall or cold days, then maybe, but for Nova Scotia, it's not."

The senior climatologist said January helped the cause here in Truro, with temperatures about two degrees warmer than the normal winter month. That, however, offset freezing temperatures at the beginning of the season.

"Colchester County had 13 days below 20 degrees in the month of November and normally you would see eight days. It's not record breaking, but if you thought November was colder, you weren't imaging it," he said, adding winter began with the last half of November and the month of December being about two degrees colder than normal.

"With the January that, many days were higher than 11 degrees, which helped take the sting out of the winter at that point. There were only six days where it was 20 below."

When it comes to precipitation, Phillips said the county has seen higher numbers than the norm, with 605 millimetres of rain and snowmelt, compared to about 580.

"Snowfall is difficult to get right, but the average was about 170 centimetres, when the norm has been 150," he said.

The constant freeze and thaw in both January and February has caused numerous headaches for motorists in the Town of Truro.

Chuck Roberts, senior engineer with engineering and public works, said the winter has had a "considerable impact" on the roads already.

"The biggest issue this winter has been the freeze and thaw," he said, adding the moisture in the ground popped out the asphalt in numerous places.

"Asphalt plants are closed this time of year, so we don't have access to hot mix."

That leaves road crews to use cold patching, which is only a short-term fix.

"We need to have near-perfect conditions for the cold mix - dry weather, no water in the asphalt and clean holes," he said. "It needs to be warm enough so we can pack it in really well."

Roberts said the department has received a number of calls regarding potholes, however, he said most people were understanding and many are only calling to make sure the town is aware.

"One of the worst areas is the McClures Mills, Willow Street intersection. It's a high traffic area and it's hard for us to get in there to do any patching."

The senior engineer couldn't give any numbers as to the patching budget or how much asphalt has been used. He said the budget is mixed in with the summer patching budget as well.

While many people might be grumbling about the snow, a lot of Colchester County students within the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board probably weren't complaining.

Students saw seven days cancelled thanks to the snowfall.

"Generally, we have a bit of room and flexibility for snowstorms in each school year," said Debbie Buott-Matheson, communications manager for the school board. "I know some people are starting to be concerned about the number of days students have missed and whether that will affect the school year, but it would have to be an extreme situation for us to extend the school year."

She said the idea isn't one that is being discussed, however, if educational staff were to be concerned that students' education would be threatened by the number of school closures, there would be a discussion then.

"It would be discussed at length and parents would know well in advance, but it's not something that's been discussed yet," she said.

With Shubenacadie Sam predicting an early spring, Phillips isn't so sure.

"Mother Nature still has a few tricks," he said. "But people won't remember this winter. It's not a classic and not remarkable."

Twitter: @TDNRaissa


Organizations: Environment Canada, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Truro, Colchester County, Nova Scotia Willow Street Chignecto

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