City applauds snow crews for job done during the storm

Kyle Shaw: "It was a really well orchestrated weekend"

  • Dec. 14, 2016 7:00 p.m.

Scott StanfieldRecord staff

Thanks to a heads up from Environment Canada, city crews were prepared for the onslaught of snow that hit the Comox Valley over the weekend.

“It was a really well orchestrated weekend,” said Kyle Shaw, the City of Courtenay’s manager of transportation and utilities. “We had everything geared up, and we did our dry runs last week.

“You’re not going to appease everyone,” he added. “Considering the amount of snow in the short period of time and the conditions of the road today (Monday), it was really good. I think one of our bigger challenges on Saturday was the rapid melt as the rain started to fall, and some flooding conditions, but we were able to utilize some of our other resources that weren’t dedicated to plows to alleviate some of those concerns.”

During snow and ice conditions, the order of priority for clearing is:

•arterial roads, emergency services facilities and bus routes;

•collector roads, steep hills, school zones and the downtown commercial area;

•local roads, cul-de-sacs and lanes.

Sidewalk clearing is also prioritized. Topping the list is the downtown core within Third Street, Cliffe Avenue, Eighth Street and Fitzgerald Avenue.

Residents and businesses have a role to play. Businesses, for instance, are required to remove snow from downtown sidewalks bordering the property by noon.

Emcon kept busy

The regional district has no jurisdiction over roads and ditches — including snow removal — in rural areas. This falls under the authority of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), which subcontracts to Emcon Services.

In terms of plow cycles during a snow event, Emcon will stay on main routes and arterials beyond Courtenay borders until a storm clears.

“We do try to get into the bus routes before the next morning,” operations manager Stu Westwood said.

“Once that’s done and a storm quits, then we’ll get into the D class roads, and we have 48 hours to complete that once the storm is over.”

The Record received a few complaints from readers about the lack of plowing in the rural neighbourhoods, including some photos of unplowed roads taken early Tuesday morning.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Westwood said all snow removal had been completed.

“There was definitely a couple of roads that were missed, that people have since done, but all in all, I think we did very well,” he said.

Westwood said all available equipment was being used during the storm, adding that any vehicles seen idle in the yard were likely not the type of vehicles that would have served a purpose on the weekend.

9,400 lane kilometres plowed

“We have a lot of equipment, and it may not be snow removal equipment – there could be trucks in the yard, not equipped with plows,” he said. “We have 1,500 lane kilometres in the Comox Valley alone, and crews plowed 9,400 in the storm event, so it’s not like there was anything idle.

“We had well more than double staff (over the weekend). We had as many people as we could possibly put on.”

Westwood said despite the rarity of such snowfalls in the Comox Valley, his crews are well trained to handle them.

“The Cumberland crews are very good at moving snow,” he said. “They are used to doing it on Mount Washington, so this was just more of a full-scale (operation).”

Visit or call 1-800-550-4997 for 24-hour automated road hazard and condition information, travel advisories and closures. Emcon’s after hours/emergency number is 1-866-353-3136.


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