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Operation snow removal : Lessons from a nasty storm

A brutal snowstorm dumped 45 cm of snow on the borough on Dec. 27 and residents on some streets had to wait a long time to have their streets plowed. Some of them came to the last council meeting to suggest improvements.
Judging by the number of empty seats in the council chamber – about a third of them were empty – residents were in general understanding of the challenges such a major storm presented. Maybe the fact that the meeting was broadcast live on the web explained the unoccupied seats?
In any case, it took 9 days to finish snow clearing operations in Côte-des-Neiges–NDG, which made it especially difficult for those with mobility problems. One resident reported that, while he recognized that the historic storm was an extraordinary event, it took a week to clear the sidewalks on a street inhabited by numerous elderly residents.
Why did it seem that some sidewalks were forgotten? One resident suggested that the sidewalks on at least one side be given priority on as many streets as possible.
Borough Director Stéphane Plante explained that the heavy snowfall caused a domino effect. Some streets became too narrow for the big plows, and sidewalk plows had to be used for the streets instead of the sidewalks. Priority was given to important arteries so that ambulances and fire trucks could circulate and access to hospitals was clear. When the equipment arrived the day after the 45 cm storm, there was so much accumulated snow on the sidewalks that there was no place to put it. Walls of snow rose up between the sidewalks and the houses, and between the sidewalks and the parked cars. Residents couldn’t dig their cars out.
Snowblowers were useful to clear sidewalks, said Plante, but workers had to wait until all the cars were removed to push the sidewalk snow onto the streets and start loading up the trucks. It took 9 days to complete the operation.
The borough plans to deploy the snowblowers differently during the next snowstorm so that similar problems are minimized, and is considering forming special teams to ensure that access to residences for the elderly are kept clear.
Another resident said that 5 days after the storm her family set off for an outdoor rink on foot, taking to the streets because of the blocked sidewalks. When they finally made it to the park they were surprised to see that the snow hadn’t been cleared off the ice.
Having spent a long time on the phone with the snow-removal team, Mayor Lionel Perez agreed with the borough director – priority was given to clearing important streets. He promised that things will be better the next time.
The borough drew some other conclusions from the snow clearing operations. Since garbage pickup didn’t take place two days after the storm and there was no easy way to communicate quickly with residents, Perez thinks that integrating social media like Twitter into the communications strategy could be useful so that the borough’s web page contains the latest information.

Marie Cicchini | redaction@lesactualites.ca
Photo : Marie Cicchini


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