Surrey has gone through two-thirds of its seasonal salt supply, and with another snow storm heading this way, the city has altered its strategy.
With thick sheets of ice remaining on many local roads, Surrey is using a salt-and-sand mix to provide for better traction.
Surrey Operations Manager Rob Costanzo said Surrey is well-positioned to make it through this winter season.
The city learned a lot during the winter of 2008, he said, when it was clobbered with a storm that lasted about three weeks.
Angry callers crashed the city’s phone lines as they attempted to get their side roads plowed and their garbage picked up.
“I guess we haven’t experienced a winter like this since the ’08-’09 storm,” Costanzo said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from that winter.”
At the time, Surrey had the capacity to hold 4,000 metric tonnes of salt at the works yard. The city went through more than 14,000 metric tonnes that year. Since then, the city has built a salt shed that holds 14,000 metric tonnes of salt.
And it’s fortunate it did, because after the protracted snowfalls late last year, Surrey is down to about 4,000 metric tonnes.
Costanzo said about 80 per cent of the city’s roads have been cleared, however, some routes are still heavily covered in ice.
Those are now being hit with a salt-and-sand mix.
And with more snow forecast for this weekend, Surrey is getting ready to spray a salt-brine solution on roads that have been cleared. The solution will slow snow and ice collection on those roads and will allow plows to get to all the main arterials.
“Initial forecasts were talking about upwards of 45 centimetres of snow by Saturday,” Costanzo said. “But as of (Tuesday), they’ve downplayed it, they don’t expect it to be as severe, or anywhere near that.”
He hasn’t seen updated accumulation estimates, but said Surrey will be ready in any event, noting crews clear roads on a priority basis.
First to be cleared are arterial roads, major collectors, bus routes and roads with steep grades or school access.
Then, Surrey plows secondary roads in residential areas and access roads to long-term facilities.
Next up are all other local roads.
“Our main focus is on the priority routes,” Costanzo said.
Because temperatures have been hovering around freezing this winter, snow has been difficult to forecast. The last blast of snow lasted longer than forecasters expected and then turned to thick ice.
Surrey budgets $3.6 million for snow clearing each calendar year.
“We’re just under budget for 2016,” Costanzo said.
So far, Surrey residents haven’t crashed the city hall phone lines as they did eight years ago.
“We’ve had an average of 400 calls per week since the week of Dec. 5,” Costanzo said.
Of the total 2,292 calls, 192 were for pothole repair, 1,500 were for removal of snow and ice, and 600 were for missed garbage collection.
The next storm is expected to arrive in Surrey late Friday or on Saturday.