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Ready or not Atlantic Canada, here comes the snow!

xby Terry Waterfield

Are we ready? Summer’s gone and autumn will soon turn into winter once again. That means colder weather, with all those other things; snow, sleet, freezing rain and chilling winds. Are we ready for that?

After a relatively easy winter last year, which had followed two winters with quite a bit of snow and cold, what does mother nature have in store for us this time around? People are still remembering “White Jaun,” which dumped record snowfall amounts on Nova Scotia, PEI and southern New Brunswick overnight on February 18-19, 2004, which brought a number of communities to a standstill for several days. Halifax was hit hard with 95.5 cm. of snow, Moncton got 61.2 cm and Charlottetown was blanketed with 74.4 cm. Many businesses and schools were closed and many streets and roads were clogged for days.

The areas affected eventually recovered from that storm, and since then our winters have been relatively normal, with last year below normal in terms of snow fall amounts.

White Juan” was what could be termed as a once in a lifetime event. But could we have another one? The answer is yes! Would we be ready if another “White Juan” struck? The simple answer to that is probably not!

No province or municipality could be expected, or be financially able, to stockpile the equipment, manpower and supplies necessary for such an unusual event, but the experience gained in 2004 should go a long way to making the recovery period shorter if another storm of that magnitude comes upon us.

But, with Halifax receiving an average of 151 cm of snow every winter, Moncton, 295, Summerside 281, just to name a few centres in the Maritimes, there is still a lot of snow that has to be moved each winter to keep everything moving at the pace we expect.

With today’s forecasting advancements, with satellites giving a constant view of conditions on earth from their lofty perch in space, Doppler radar able to see into the centre of clouds and weather systems, combined with the more traditional methods, such as weather balloons, which are launched twice a day all around the world to record such data as temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind speeds at different heights of the atmosphere, coupled with advanced computer systems, weather forecasting is much more accurate than ever before.

This allows provincial and municipal snow removal operations to be better prepared, and staff and equipment ready when the snow begins to fall. The Atlantic provinces and many municipalities have a definite plan of attack, hitting the major arteries first, with side streets and rural roads not getting the same immediate attention. For example, major arteries can be expected to be kept open in order to facilitate traffic heading into and out of the city core.

We all know that the city plows will take care of our streets, and in some cases, our sidewalks as well, but it is up to us to be able to get in and out of our driveways and houses. As well, business, especially malls, and apartment complexes, need to supply parking and entry from the streets.

There is a significant industry which has grown up to take care of snow removal, from truck and tractor manufacturers, snowplow suppliers and snow removal professionals who provide their services to mall and apartment operators, and even to private individuals to take care of their snow and ice removal problems.

Typically, these companies work on annual contracts with their clients and set their staff and equipment requirements based on their contracts. Many are engaged in other duties during the summer months, such as earth removal and landscaping and convert their equipment to snow removal duties as the winter approaches.

Preparation is the key in their operation and these businesses keep a close ear to the weather reports to ensure they have the necessary staff and equipment ready when the storm hits. Typically, these companies have staff at work throughout the storm, not allowing the snow to build up, ensuring that, in the case of malls, staff and customers will be able to safely arrive and depart during business hours and in the case of apartments, that residents will be able to leave and arrive at their parking areas when they need to.

Typically, these snow removal companies will make a number of visits to a clients property, ensuring the snow buildup is managed and that salting and chemical treatment is provided after the snow clearing if necessary.

Most service stations, especially those with service bay areas and service vehicles, are equipped to take care of their own needs in keeping their stations and gas pumps available to their customers, and many also hire out their services to other businesses and individuals to take care of their snow removal needs. It is also a known fact that service calls increase during storms for stalled and stuck vehicles.

Whether you are a professional snow removal operator, or an individual dealing with your own snow, it is important that snow removal equipment is ready to go before the first snow arrives. Provincial highway departments, municipal works offices and professional snow removal companies cannot afford to delay having equipment and staff ready for the inevitable snowstorm.

The public expects their roads to be plowed as soon as the first snow falls. Likewise, people expect to be able to get out of the mall parking lot after working or shopping there, and they expect to be able to get their car into their parking lot when they get home to their apartment complex.

To that end, long before we have enjoyed our last day at the beach, or have burned our last steak on the BBQ, snow removal professionals have been busy checking and rechecking their snow removal equipment, making sure everything is in good order.

These preparations usually begin in July and in some cases earlier. Companies who sell the plows, accessories, and trucks claim their busiest order months are June and July. All to ensure that you and I are able to get to work when we are needed, and return safely home at the end of our working day. Life in Atlantic Canada would be much more difficult were it not for the snow removal professionals.

So if another “White Juan” strikes like it did in ’04 folks, just stay inside the comfort of your home, and wait for the professionals to do their thing.

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