Although the city was nearing crisis levels of snowfall in January, a kind February has calmed city public works crews’ nerves.
“As long as we don’t have huge buckets of snow fall on us continuously over the next month, I think we’re OK,” public works director Colin Innes said.
With mother nature sympathetic to Prince Albert residents for the past month, city crews have had more time than expected to remove snow from areas of the city that tend to flood during the spring runoff.
If the heavy snowfall that plagued the city during the first half of winter had continued, Innes said that the city “would have been spending our time removing snow and regular snowplowing, as opposed to picking up snow in these areas where we know that we’ve got problems.”
Proactively removing snow before it can cause a problem has proven to be the most effective way at mitigating flood risk, Innes notes in a report to city council.
“Once the snow has melted, attempting to manage the runoff is limited to the effectiveness of routing the runoff to catch basins or drainage channels,” his report reads. “Unfortunately, this involves a lot of pumping, and the city has limited resources in this regard.”
With snowfall letting up this past month, city crews have avoided some measures they were negotiating, including plowing snow to one side of the road, which Innes notes may have confused drivers.
Another option considered was high blading, where the top of the existing windrow would be knocked over onto the sidewalk to increase its storage capacity. This Innes notes, would have had a negative effect on pedestrians.
A third option would have been to stack snow directly onto the sidewalks, in a more extreme version of high blading.
Although these measures were not necessitated, the early dump of snow has had its financial implications for the city.
As long as we don’t have huge buckets of snow fall on us continuously over the next month, I think we’re OK. - Public works director Colin Innes
The city typically uses 3,000 tonnes of sand/salt mix to de-slick roads -- a level the city has already met, with an additional 1,000 tonnes ordered at an added cost of $7,500.
The cost of additional city snow dump maintenance has been $20,500 and the associated cost of extra fuel use in January was more than $27,000.
Although the city’s still under budget for snow removal, Innes notes that the budget also takes into account the first half of next winter, so any potential financial impact has yet to be felt.
The city’s efforts at snow removal and flood mitigation haven’t gone unnoticed, Coun. Mark Tweidt said during Monday’s executive committee meeting.
“A kudos to our staff,” he said, noting that although some people will always complain about snowfall, most realistic people will recognize the hard work and effort city crews put into its plowing and removal.
When it comes to runoff from the mountains floating down the North Saskatchewan River, Innes said that although it’s expected to be higher than usual, it’s expected to join localized runoff under a “manageable” status.
With the city mitigating spring runoff concerns, pending another big dump of snow, Innes said that the next related effort will be garbage pickup.
“It’s been nice and white and nobody’s seen the garbage because it’s been hidden under snow, and all of a sudden, boom -- all the garbage appears,” he said.
Crews will begin garbage pickup on priority one streets, where garbage is the most visible, and continue down the list, as they do with snow removal.