Now is the winter of our discontent.
If you haven’t noticed, Cranbrook was blanketed with it’s first snowfall as the season transitions from autumn to winter, with six centimetres of the white stuff coming down in a Sunday evening flurry.
It’s somewhat close to last year’s opening snowfall, which was a record-breaker for November’s first dump of the year at eight centimetres.
Despite the first appearance of snow, any more flurries aren’t in the immediate forecast. Temperatures are going to drop, while remaining sunny of the next few days, according to Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.
“It comes with the arctic front and we’re not expecting it to warm up in the Cranbrook area till perhaps mid-next week,” Lundquist said.
“…It’s definitely going to be sunny and cold now for a while coming up.”
Winter eventually comes, but what surprised Lundquist is how quickly the temperatures transitioned from being one of the warmest Octobers on record to a forecast that includes lows in the double-digits.
“What was atypical was how warm it was in October and the beginning of November. Incredibly warm, I think you came out in the top-three for the warmest-ever October,” Lundquist said.
“So what I think the big deal is, is the switch. This kind of weather we’re going to get here over the next few days is normal for this time of year, an average for temperature, but very normal for this time of year.
“What is unusual is how warm it was and how quick the switch is coming and came. I think that’s the big deal.”
Public Works crews are well aware of the new winter conditions, and have been working on clearing, salting and sanding city streets. However, there is also an onus on residents and businesses to do their part to keep sidewalks clear of ice and snow.
“Regularly clearing ice and snow from your sidewalks and driveways will allow much easier access to your property by the fire department, RCMP or paramedics should an accident or other emergencies happen,” said Wayne Price, the director of Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services.
During and following major snowstorms, Public Works snow removal operations run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a fleet of vehicles that includes four salt/sand trucks with belly plows, two graders and two loaders.
“With this schedule and the equipment we have, it is reasonable to expect most areas of the city to be cleared within three or four days of a snowfall, depending on the amount of snow and how fast it comes down,” said Joe McGowan, the director of Public Works.
Streets are plower according to their priority status, which falls under four classifications, starting with high-traffic streets, transit routes and hospital zones before focusing on the downtown core and school zones. After that, resources are spread out to take care of other residential streets and low-traffic areas.
The city advises the public to avoid parking vehicles on the street if possible during snowfalls as it interferes with clearing the streets effectively. Residents are also asked to avoid shovelling snow from their sidewalks or windrows back onto the street after city plows have driven by.
“It creates issues for our crews, as the plow will need to make an additional run down your street to clean it up,” said McGowan. “That additional run increases city’s costs with additional staff time, fuel and equipment wear and tear, not to mention delays in getting to other areas of the city that also need to be plowed.”
Sidewalks are also cleared on a priority basis, but city crews are dedicated to clearing roads first. As personnel get freed up from plowing roads, the city usually runs one, or two if possible, machines on sidewalks with the downtown core as the primary focus.
It’s also important to note that Rotary Way is not cleared by city crews. There are very steep and below elevation where water pools and freezes, making it difficult to keep maintained on a consistent basis, especially when Public Works would rather remain focus on city streets and sidewalks.