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Extreme winter has Edmonton snow removal crews working around the clock

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Friday, January 31, 2014, 5:37 PM

It's been an extreme winter season in Edmonton, Alberta, which saw an immense amount of snow at the end of November, and then again in December and January. 

The city also saw record-breaking warm ups, reaching day time highs rarely seen before -- only to dip back to bone-chilling weather.

Bob Dunford, the Director of Roadway Maintenance for the City of Edmonton, says that its been a crazy year for snow removal crews.

Back in December, the snow removal budget had already been exceeded by $10 million, and the extreme winter weather had prompted city officials to review their procedures.

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"In Sherwood Park they actually scrape [snow] away [down to the pavement in residential areas] and haul it away. To do that in Edmonton would be about $35 million per year more, and would need more snow storage sites. The 2011 snow removal budget was  $51.8 million and this year's budget is $53.3 million," Dunford says.

There are a few reasons the budget is strained, one of them being the massive amount of manpower needed to keep Edmonton's roadways clear.

"In a typical season we will remove 100 million cubic meters of snow, and be putting down 140 thousand – 150 thousand tones of materials [like gravel and sand]," Dunford says.

"This year, in January alone we hauled away 100 million cubic meters of snow. By the end of December we put down 125 thousand tones of materials."

According to Dunford, residential roads are creating the biggest challenge.

Crews can plow and haul the snow away, but that's very expensive. The other option is to windrow snow to the side.

"In the past Edmonton tried just maintaining a level snow pack with no windrows which wrecked havoc on city streets when thaw outs happened," Dunford says.

"Then they moved to a 10 cm or less snow pack system. Complaints continued and now the city abides by a 5 cm or less snow pack in residential areas. Anything more and it will take a significant amount of more money and time to haul it all away."
So what's the best option?

Officials are still trying to figure that out.

In the meantime, winter roars on in Edmonton.

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