Why Kelowna is still catching up on snow clearance | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Why Kelowna is still catching up on snow clearance

City crews have been working to clear snow and ice off roads following a series of ‘winter events’ between Christmas and New Year’s.

If you're wondering why Kelowna roads are still so covered with snow and ice, the City has an answer — they were swamped.

Public works manager Geert Bos said some road maintenance crews were working 24/7 through the holidays trying to catch up with accumulating snowfall on major routes and couldn't get to many side streets in residential areas.

“Between Christmas and New Year’s, there were a lot of events close to each other,” Bos said. “A lot of the residential areas got put on the back burner when a new event hit because we had to re-shift and re-focus our priorities.”

When a hard freeze sets in, traditional snow removal practices like salt don’t work, so the city does a combination of a light plow and applies a light coat of sand to the road surfaces, Bos explained.

“Over Christmas, there were a bunch of events following each other in short order,” Bos said.

Throughout the holiday break, there was an average of 20 to 30 city employees working over a 24-hour period.

“Crews have been working since the evening of Dec. 24, teams have not had a day off since, they are still in clean up mode. We’re looking forward to providing them with a break hopefully next week,” Bos said.

Bos commended the efforts made by city employees to ensure the roads were clear between the close winter storms.

“The City did an excellent job in providing winter maintenance activities to the city. Our folks were away from their families during Christmas, which is difficult, but they made the sacrifice to go out and make sure the residents of the city can move around safely during and after the snow events,” he said.

READ MORE: Drivers parked on certain Kelowna roads need to move it for snow plows

Much like every year, the city did receive complaints about snow removal, including where city staffers put the excess snow, or how many employees were out working on the roads.

“It’s inherent to the nature of snow removal,” Bos said. “When we’re in a full event, there’s bus stop removal, parking lots, there’s upwards of 50 to 60 people. It’s a little army of folks that go out there.”

Bos ensures residents the city always responds to complaints of icy road conditions.

“When residents call about icy parts of the road, we go out and sand,” he said.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, the city had three trucks running to the gravel pit collecting gravel to use on the icy roads.

“We’ve always had ample supply of sand. We haven’t used the salt in the last couple of weeks because it’s been too cold,” Bos said.

The city sands all sections of the road, however will prioritize areas including intersections, curves, hills, and school zones, due to damage the sand can cause vehicles, the City of Kelowna website said.

Over the holidays, the city did not put out any messaging about road conditions, however drivers were expected to drive to road conditions.

“As long as folks drove to the conditions, we provided a safe operating environment,” Bos said.

The fiscal budget for winter maintenance is $2.1 million, and Bos is anticipating the city will be over budget by $400,000.

“Given the above-average snow accumulation, and the low temperatures, we spent close to $1 million in winter maintenance activities alone within December,” Bos said.

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