Public Works take extreme cold in stride

Matt Gardner
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Bitterly cold temperatures this week kept many residents inside, but it’s largely business as usual for the City of Prince Albert’s Public Works department.

A car drives down 10th Street on Tuesday afternoon. The city Public Works department has switched from pouring salt on icy roads to a mixture of sand and rock as a result of plunging temperatures. Roadways manager Brent Kennedy described other effects of the extreme cold on city infrastructure as minimal.

Roadways manager Brent Kennedy said the extreme cold has had a minimal impact on the city’s infrastructure, with one exception.

“We haven’t had any real issues, except the roads are icy,” he said.

“Until it warms up, we’ll just keep doing what we can.”

The way the department confronts the problem of icy roads is the most notable change accompanying plunging temperatures. City crews typically pour salt on roadways in order to melt the ice.

But when the temperature drops below -18 C, the salt stops working and crews must switch to a sand and rock mixture that does not melt the ice, but helps prevent people and vehicles from slipping.

“If the temperature’s warm enough, we’ll add more salt and then it activates when it hits the ground and it melts the ice right off,” Kennedy said.

“Right now with this cold spell that we’ve been going through, we just try and just keep the roads as best as we can and then when it warms up, we’ll add more salt to it and it should clear the ice.”

We haven’t had any real issues, except the roads are icy. Brent Kennedy

Every day this week, city crews have been busy pouring the sand and rock mixture onto municipal roads. Sidewalks, by comparison, are largely the responsibility of residents themselves.

Aside from roadways and sidewalks, the most notable change for the Public Works department in extreme cold weather conditions is the effect on machinery.

“It’s hard on the equipment and everything, like garbage trucks … Usually hydraulic hoses will break in this temperature,” Kennedy said.

In general, city infrastructure has held up remarkably well in the face of severe cold temperatures that typically come later in January.

Kennedy noted that there had been no major problems with water pipes at this juncture.

“We’ve been lucky so far, we haven’t had that many breaks,” he said. “But down the road, probably -- usually in the spring when the frost is starting to come out is when we usually tend to have those problems with the water lines.”

Organizations: Public Works department

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