SURREY — More snow is in the forecast this weekend – and if you’re expecting Surrey snow plows to show up to clear your street, think again.
Surrey’s manager of engineering operations Rob Costanzo said the city doesn’t typically deal with residential road clearing because the weather usually warms up, or rain will melt the snow.
But this winter, snow and freezing temperatures persist, inundating city hall with requests for snow clearing on residential roads.
The ice is so thick in some areas that residents have taken to ice skating on their streets.
See also: VIDEO: Ice skating on Surrey streets
“We have been deploying staff to local roads on a priority basis,” Costanzo told the Now. “So if there’s a medical emergency type issue, or a road with grade where it’s challenging for people to get up and down, we will plow those. We are also dealing with waste collection routes. So if waste collection contractors have trouble on local roads then we’ll deploy trucks there.
“We are dealing with local roads this winter to the best of our ability with the resources we have,” he continued, but stressed the city is still focusing its efforts on roads with greatest risk factors, such as high traffic volumes or high speeds. “We are taking calls, but we can’t promise we’ll get to every local road… We prioritize.”
Costanzo added that snow clearing on local roads can prove complicated due to on-street parking. This “severely restricts” the operation of snow plows, he noted. Though some colder Canadian cities limit parking to one side of the street in winter, Surrey doesn’t, due to the disruption it would cause locals.
Snow plowing local roads also requires trucks to slow from 50 kilometres/hour to just 20 because they’re narrower, notes Surrey’s Snow and Ice Control Policy.
“It is estimated that servicing local roads would be four times more time-consuming and costly per lane kilometre than the higher priority roads,” the policy states.
Meanwhile, city hall is also getting requests from the public to clear sidewalks but Costanzo reminds residents the city doesn’t do so.
As per Surrey’s bylaw, similar to most other jurisdictions, snow clearing on sidewalks is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner.
Acknowledging there has been a salt shortage, Costanzo recommends people use sand in a pinch.
Costanzo said Surrey’s snow removal crew was busy this week preparing for a weekend snowfall while still working to clear the New Year’s Eve dump.
The city is “preparing for a worst case scenario,” he added.
Late last week, a whopping 45 centimetres of snow was forecasted to fall this weekend, said Costanzo, though that’s now been downgraded. The Weather Network is now predicting up to six centimetres.
“It seems by all indications we are going to get snow, it’s just a matter of how much,” he said. “There’s a chance of brief light snow Friday but winds may be strong enough to hold off precipitation until Saturday night.”
If the rest of the season’s forecasts are right, “this will be one for the record books,” said Costanzo.
This winter has been an “anomaly,” he added.
Surrey used nearly all of its $3.5 million budget for snow in 2016, said Costanzo, and is now beginning to eat into funds from the 2017 budget. More than 50 vehicles were deployed around the clock in the lead up to New Year’s Eve, preparing roads for that snow storm, then clearing it.
“We haven’t had this type of winter since the ’08, ’09 winter,” he added. “That one it snowed steady for about three weeks… this one seems worse because it’s on and off, then into a deep freeze. Prior to that I think the worst was way back in 1964 in terms of the most snow days… and this winter so far is seeming to be even longer.”
When snow falls, Surrey splits its roads into three priority groups to ensure major routes get cleared first (visit thenownewspaper.com for a map highlighting road priorities).
There are “first-priority” roads in the city – key arteries that are used by large numbers of drivers. They include main roads, bus routes and roads with steep hills.
Roads fronting and/or leading to schools and long-term care facilities are also included. While “second-priority” roads are remaining arterial and collector routes. These include local connector roads in residential areas.
But if winter weather returns, crews revert back to focusing on first priority roads.
To reach the City of Surrey’s service request line, call 604-591-4152. It’s open Monday to Friday (excluding statutory holidays) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. After hours, the line switches to the fire base to respond to emergencies.
See the map below for priority routes in Surrey, or click here for a more high-resolution image that viewers can zoom in on.
Click here for more information on the city’s snow clearing procedures.