Snow, rain, ice challenging for road crews

  • Jan. 9, 2009 1:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-Managing snow around the islands has been a challenge with more than 60 cm of snow recorded at the Tlell weather station between Dec. 1 and Jan. 5. But many islanders have been up to the task. Not only has O’Brien’s Road and Bridge Maintenance been running shifts back to back to deal with the worst parts of the Christmas season storms, but good Samaritans have been out as well. In Queen Charlotte, Tom Kile took it upon himself to make the streets easier on seniors and others with mobility problems. He voluntarily got out his shovel and cleared the sidewalks from On the Rock to the credit union and even helped out with some seniors’ driveways. He said a few other guys he knows from mornings at the Purple Onion helped out as well. “I had to make sure seniors and other disabled people could get around,” he said. But even so, he heard of a couple of incidents where people broke bones on the slippery roads in front of the credit union. The sidewalks should be cleared by the village, he said, but with no bylaws in place, nothing gets done. But according to Queen Charlotte administrator Eunice Ludlow, municipalities do not necessarily look after sidewalks anyway. She said in Vancouver residents and business owners are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their properties and can be fined if they are not cleared. She agreed that Queen Charlotte has no bylaws, but she said she is working on a policy and would be pleased to get public feedback on what is expected, especially since the village will be taking over plowing of side roads in 2010. But all services such as this come at a cost to the community she said. “It’s a huge expense to taxpayers,” she said. “Big towns don’t even clear side streets,” she said. “They just swoop down the main highways with their snow removal machines and create barriers on side roads.” In the meantime, Queen Charlotte public works superintendent Ben Greenough has been practicing with the town’s new maintenance truck. The 2005 Ford F-550 4×4 has a snow plow and sander attachment and Mr. Greenough has been doing smaller alleyways, the boat launch and helipad as part of his training. “After 2010, it will be the plow for the side streets,” he said. In Port Clements the public works superintendent was out salting and sanding, so couldn’t come to the phone to discuss the roads there. But Heather Nelson-Smith in the office said the flash freezing on the roads during the rain in the past few days has been a challenge. In Masset, the snow was also falling fast and furious and the crews had the added challenge of keeping the airport clear. Masset’s chief financial officer Jo-Ann Brown said thanks to delays and cancellations from the Vancouver end, the Masset crews were always able to keep up. Greg Stewart at O’Brien’s said he doesn’t remember a snowfall like this since the 1990s, but his crews were prepared for it nonetheless. He said they had to put chains on a vehicle for the first time during a run to Queen Charlotte, where the steep roads can pose interesting problems for his drivers. “It’s not where we send our rookies,” he said. As for Mr. Kile, he’s taking a break from shoveling due to a sore back, but he’s hoping the roof rake he ordered – a long-handled rake that extends 16 feet – comes in soon so he can start working on friends’ and families’ snow-covered roofs.