Get ready for the white stuff
When the snow starts falling this winter, and the weather experts are predicting it will this week in the higher levels, Tri-City residents and business owners need to be armed and ready.
Each municipality requires homeowners to clear the sidewalks bordering their property shortly after a snowfall, and the same goes for business owners.
“Residents are required under the bylaw to clear the sidewalks abutting their property, on the front side or the rear, 10 hours after the snow has stopped falling,” said Dan Mooney, Coquitlam’s manager of roads and traffic operations. “But we recommend they do it earlier, as it’s falling, so it doesn’t get as heavy or wet.”
And if you’ve spent hours shoveling your driveway and sidewalks, only to have the city trucks come along and plow it right back again, here’s a tip: stand in your driveway, facing the street, and shovel the snow to the right side of your driveway.
Mooney also reminded residents that clearing their sidewalks once doesn’t necessarily let them off the hook.
“If it snows again, or we plow and push the snow up onto the sidewalk, they are required to clear it again,” he said, noting residents should shovel sidewalk snow onto the boulevard (the edge of their lawn). “We hate putting snow back on the sidewalk, but if you shovel it on to the street that’s where it ends up.”
Business owners are also required to clear sidewalks bordering their properties under the same timeline and regulations.
Mooney said the majority of complaints the city gets from pedestrians about uncleared sidewalks are around bus stops and schools. Once the 10-hour window has lapsed city staff will check to see if an area is still covered with snow; if it is, the property owner gets a warning letter.
A second offence is referred to the bylaw department, at which point it’s up to bylaw officers to attend and issue a ticket if they see fit.
In Port Coquitlam, residents and business owners must have their sidewalks free of snow and ice by 10 a.m. the morning after a snowfall.
That city also suggests moving snow to the right side of driveways (when facing the street) to improve the visibility of oncoming traffic and to prevent plows from dragging snow back onto your driveway.
Elderly and disabled residents in Coquitlam (visit www.coquitlam.ca and click on the Winter Wise link) and PoCo (visit www.portcoquitlam.ca and click on the Snow Angels link) can sign up for the Snow Angel program so that a volunteer can come and clear their snow.
Port Moody’s bylaws require property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks bordering their properties within 24 hours after the snow stops falling.
City staff will clear sidewalks on collector or arterial routes based on priorities established by the director of operations.
The Tri-Cities has yet to see any significant snow fall this winter but that has not stopped salt and brine trucks from de-icing many local roads and thoroughfares across the region.
According to Dan Mooney, Coquitlam’s manager of traffic operations, pre-emptive work, particularly brining, has become an effective way of making roads safer in the colder months.
“We are using much more of it each season,” he said. “It is way more efficient as a pre-treatment, costs less [and] is more effective.”
Brine is a mixture of salt and water that can be sprayed on to roads in order to make them less icy.
Coquitlam’s work yard can hold up to 10,000 gallons of the liquid, which is made from the same raw salt that the city uses on roads during snow storms. Mooney said engineering staff are looking into expanding that capacity because of the increases in the use of brine annually.
Port Coquitlam is also expected to use 32,000 litres of brine this winter, while Port Moody estimates it will require between 50,000 and 100,000 litres.
Salt is another tool cities use to melt ice on local roads and sidewalks. Coquitlam will likely see about 4,000 tonnes dropped on its streets while Port Moody expects to use between 300 and 400 tonnes. Port Coquitlam’s snow clearing operations is capable of dispensing 600 cubic metres of salt through the course of a winter season.
Coquitlam has 19 plows, PoCo has seven while Port Moody has 10 vehicles including two backhoes and a bobcat.
Don’t let snow and cold weather catch you unprepared.
That’s the advice of Ingmar Wilkens, owner of the Canadian Tire store in Port Coquitlam.
People tend to react to snow after it happens, and Wilkens suggests loading up on snow shovels, ice melter, and getting new wiper blades, snow tires and car batteries now, rather than waiting for the snowfall.
“I make sure I have my shovels, ready,” said Wilkens, who is originally from Ontario. “That’s where I learned, you never mess with Mother Nature when it comes to snow.”
School District 43 has learned from past experience that the best way to handle snow days is to have a plan.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Derpak said all schools are required to have a snow plan and new communication procedures are in place in case of a large snowfall.
“The only safe approach, if we are going to close the school district for snow conditions, is that we close the entire district,” said Derpak.
He said parents should listen to CKNW and watch the website (www.sd43.bc.ca) for school closure information.
However, Derpak also cautioned parents to listen to their own intuition. If they feel that conditions are too treacherous for their child, they should keep them home even if their neighbourhood school hasn’t been closed. “The learning is going to be interrupted to some degree anyway and we’ll work through that.”
Following a bad snow storm, parents can expect schools to close for at least the first day. But in areas where the snowfall has been light, schools could open on subsequent days. Here again, parents must be alert to openings and closures and make their own decision regarding safety.
Even during a full closure, each school will have a skeleton staff on duty in case a child does show up. “We want no one to be unsafe in this process. Every site will have a core of people,” Derpak declared.
The district has also enhanced its information gathering and communications strategy so it can keep up to date as weather conditions change and will work with cities to improve snow clearing on roads near schools.
With winter weather expected to hit the region over the next few months Port Coquitlam is once again launching its Snow Angel program.
The Snow Angels is a registry of volunteers willing to clear snow and ice from sidewalks for elderly or disabled residents.
For volunteers, the program is an opportunity to get some exercise — shoveling snow can burn more than 400 calories an hour — and give back to the community.
Snow Angels volunteers are welcome to sign up individually or in teams. Volunteers must provide their own shovel, be at least 12 years old and complete the city’s volunteer application process, which includes a criminal background check.
All Snow Angels volunteers receive a city toque and identification card and students can apply their Snow Angels hours towards the high school volunteer requirement. Information about proper shoveling techniques, preventative back exercises and personal safety will be provided at a volunteer orientation session.
Learn more at www.portcoquitlam.ca/snowangels.