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Here’s how Vancouver is getting ready for winter

City staff remind residents to have winter tires, check on their neighbours
The City of Vancouver has close to 10,000 metric tons of salt at the ready.

Wednesday morning’s press conference at the city works yard had a bit of Soviet-era, Cold War flare to it.

Those shows of force from decades ago featured all manner of tanks, rocket launchers and the like neatly arranged for the public, so as to tell the rest of the world, “We are ready.”

The City of Vancouver did the same thing but to a far lesser extent on a brisk November morning, lining up carefully parked snowplows next to massive salt piles weighing 2,000 metric tons. 

Different era, same message: “We are ready.”

By the numbers, the city’s winter weather response looks this:

  • 71 vehicles outfitted for snow and ice response
  • 10,000 metric tons of salt
  • Two new multi-purpose vehicles to clear pedestrian paths
  • Seven new trucks to support road clearing
  • Hundreds of personnel
  • More than 45,000 catch basins that need love, attention, adoption and quirky names. Some of the basins already adopted by Vancouverites have monikers such as “Grate Expectations,” “Live Inlet Die” and “Kevin Basin.”

Many of the issues flagged Wednesday centred on long-standing talking points: which streets get cleared first, the need to have sidewalks cleared by 10 a.m. and a reminder to check on neighbours who are elderly or live with mobility challenges.

The news of the day included the purchase of new equipment to help clear pedestrian and cycling paths, along with a revised system of snowplowing that will see drivers tackle routes more consistently and quickly across the city.

“In years past they found some routes took much longer to pass because of traffic volumes,” said Erin Hoess, the city’s manager of street operations.

Hoess noted the city works with a Vancouver-specific meteorologist to monitor weather patterns. The long-range forecast doesn’t appear to be calling for a Snowmageddon-esque winter like the one Vancouverites endured in 2016/17.

About $1.5 million is budgeted for snow preparation — outfitting vehicles, training staff — and that figure is separate from the money spent once the snow falls for a prolonged period. The park board doesn’t have a set dollar figure for snow removal and uses funds from its operational budget, said park operations manager Amit Gandha.

Snow-clearing priorities include arterials, emergency and transit routes, priority hills, schools and heavily-used bike routes. Side streets are only cleared in the event of prolonged cold snaps once the main priority roads are clear.

The park board, meanwhile, has 30 pieces of equipment to deal with Mother Nature, all equipped with snow or mud tires.

“We’re committed to clearing and ice in a timely manner with a focus on our community centres and our specialty parks… Van Dusen and Queen Elizabeth,” Gandha said.

On the topic of clearing, residents are reminded to move their vehicles off main roads and on to side streets or garages so plows can get to work.

The Snow Angels program is back again, to link up volunteers with neighbours who need a hand in snow or ice removal. The registration process can be done online or through calling 311.

Other points to consider before the mercury dips include:

  • get winter or mud and snow tires
  • if it’s really bad out, don’t drive.
  • have shovels, boots and salt in advance of white stuff’s arrival
  • adopt a catch basin and keep it clear