Morning snow surprises city streets

When four to five centimetres of snow fell on Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows early Monday, snow-clearing crews were scrambling.

The snow could be but a memory later this week as rain is expected.

The snow could be but a memory later this week as rain is expected.

Earlier last week, the weather office had been calling for rain on Sunday night. Then later a snowfall warning was issued.

But when four to five centimetres of heavy, wet snow fell on Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows in the space of a few hours early Monday, snow-clearing crews were scrambling.

“We got hit pretty good this morning,” James Storey, Maple Ridge public works, said Monday.

While Mainroad Lower Mainland Contracting plowed the Lougheed Highway, a provincial road, the city focused on Dewdney Trunk Road and the other arterials.

“We’ve still got our guys out now,” Storey said at midday.

Nine snow-plow vehicles were deployed Monday, while eight city workers were downtown, cleaning culverts to help melt snow.

Each year, the city sets aside $200,000 for snow removal. So far, about $130,000 has been used in the past two weeks.

The snow, though, may be no more than a memory by Wednesday as rain is forecast.

Rain was called for all this week, with temperatures dropping to 5 C, still with rain, on Christmas eve and day.

“I’m hoping we don’t get a big snow storm over Christmas,” which would require calling in city workers, Storey said.

There have been no major problems with the snow and cold in the past few weeks, although some wires have been knocked down because of the snow, he added.

The amount of snow on Monday also surprised Randy Evans, public works superintendent in Pitt Meadows.

“We were expecting snow, but not that much. We didn’t anticipate the amount of snow we got in that short a period of time.”

And when the snowfall happened, it was all at once.

“There’s too much. You can’t get it off fast enough.”

One challenge Pitt Meadows crews face is residents shoveling driveways.

If the city can’t get a plow down suburban streets before people shovel their driveways, the plows block the driveways with their windrows of snow.

Crews then have to choose whether to focus on the main roads or go to the neighbourhoods to clear the side streets before people shovel their driveways.

“We get a lot of complaints over that.”

Pitt Meadows spends about $120,000 year on snow removal.

“We’re probably halfway through that with the events we’ve had. We could easily go through that budget and then some by the time the year’s out,” Evans said.

There may be a larger complaint if the weather stays cold and snowy.

Pitt Meadows has only a couple weeks supply of road salt on hand and its next regular shipment of salt is due Jan. 10.

“With normal weather, which is not a lot of snow, we’ve got about two weeks’ supply,” said Evans.

The city is trying to find additional shipments from Alberta or the U.S., but that’s more expensive at about $120 a tonne compared to the usual cost of about $100 a tonne.

The usual supply comes from Chile by ship.

“We’ve got to be ready. We’re looking right now for other sources for supply.

“Salt is a key ingredient for snow removal,” especially with the type of snow we have here.

Evans noted that snowfall on the West Coast brings more challenges than drier snow in the rest of the country.

As soon as cars drive on top of snow in the Lower Mainland, it packs into ice.

“The dry, fluffy stuff that blows away like out in the prairies and up in the Interior – whole different ball game,” he added.

“People say, ‘I’ve driven in snow my entire life’ – well not in the Lower Mainland, you haven’t.”