When I started doing this monthly article, I planned to do a piece this winter on the snow removal in town by the Public Works Department.
I think with all the snow we received in the last month, this article couldn’t be timed any better!
I sat down with the director of public works to get the scoop on the who, what, when, where and why of snow removal.
Making the call
If a snowfall or freezing rain event occurs during regular work hours, the transportation supervisor makes the call as to when the salt trucks, plows and sidewalk machines are dispersed.
During off hours, such as the middle of the night, on duty police officers with the Truro Police Service will call the on-duty supervisor and alert them when streets are beginning to get slippery or if snow is starting. The supervisor then calls in the transportation crew and they begin the process of salting and plowing.
Salting & plowing streets
There is a system to the town’s snow removal process, as to when salting is done, which streets are given priority, and timing for when the sidewalks are salted and/or plowed.
When it comes to the streets, the first priority is salting. In previous years, we had three town trucks that had the ability to salt. Through the public works capital program, this year we have added salt inserts to the two tandem trucks, which now allows five trucks to salt. Normally, a layer of salt on all town streets would take at least three hours, but with the additional two trucks, we can have them all salted sooner. A coating of salt provides a layer between the pavement and snow or ice (brine sandwich) that prevents the snow from packing and causing slippery conditions.
After salting, the plows are dispersed. The town has five trucks with plows, as well as a grader and two loaders. As with the salting, each operator has a zone within town, and specific routes for plowing. Priority is given to main streets and the hills within town. The goal is to plow every street in town, approximately 98 kilometres, until they are clear. This can take anywhere from four to six hours, depending on conditions for a non-continuous event.
In the event of a continuous event or major blizzard, it is sometimes all crews can do to keep the main streets safe. In this case, side streets may have to wait. When we have a lot of snow coming down or for an extended period of time, our operators are out all hours of the day and night and work 16 hour shifts to ensure that streets and sidewalks are salted, plowed and eventually cleared.
Salting & plowing sidewalks
As for the sidewalks it can be a long process with 90 kilometres of sidewalk to do and the machinery going much slower than the plows. We have five sidewalk plows and it can take approximately four hours to salt sidewalks and six to eight hours to plow all the sidewalks. If there has been snow or freezing rain over night, the sidewalk crews are sent out at 4 a.m. to begin clearing the sidewalks; starting with the school zones. Did you know they were even out Christmas morning at 4 a.m. ensuring that the sidewalks were salted? Also, all town owned public buildings have crews deployed to clear steps and walkways.
After the storm
After the weather has returned to normal, our crews then go out for additional snow cleanup work. First priority is to shovel snow away from all 590 fire hydrants. If there is a fire, the fire department then can find and has access immediately to the nearest hydrant. Second priority is to shovel snow off of all the catch basins, more than 1,000, so that when the snow starts to melt, all the water can run into the catch basins and prevent localized flooding.
Helpful tips and reminders
REMINDER: The snowplows may do more than one pass on your street, so just because you’ve seen them go by once, doesn’t mean they won’t be back. Keep that in mind when you’re planning when to shovel the end of your driveway, or simply endeavour to shovel your driveway frequently to lighten your load.
TIP: If the plows are out while you’re driving, give them extra room. Often they take corners wide, or need to back up. Allowing them extra room will make life easier and safer for everyone.
SAFETY TIP: Parents, please discourage your children from playing in the snowbanks on the sides of streets. Our plow operators have a lot to watch for as they operate those big pieces of machinery and if your kids are making tunnels or playing on the snowbanks, it can be impossible for the operators to see them as they go by and pack more snow on top.
REMINDER: while the winter parking ban is in effect from 1 to 7 a.m. each day, there is also a clause banning parking during the daytime in the event of a storm. Having streets free of parked cars makes the clean up so much easier.
Amanda Smees is the executive assistant and communications officer for the Town of Truro. Her column appears monthly in the Truro Daily News.