They head out while most of the town sleeps to ensure local roads are safe for travel. The Town of Huntsville’s Public Works Department has a big task on snowy days: clear almost 500 kilometres of local roads as quickly as possible. If you’re waiting for your road to be cleared, you might wonder how they determine which roads receive attention first.
“Priority routes – those near schools or the hospital, or ones with steep grades – receive attention first,” says Ross Fisher, Road Foreman for the Town of Huntsville. “But our response also varies depending on the storm – we react to how much snow is on the ground and how much is still forecast to come.”
That means if a plow passes your home at 5 a.m. one day, it doesn’t mean you’ll see it again at the same time on another day. Plows will usually be on the roads by the time there are five to eight centimetres of accumulated snow, even if it’s still snowing. Be patient – it does take time for the Town’s owned and contract plows, graders, and sanders to clear the 340 kilometres of paved roads plus another 150 kilometres or so of gravel roads. The crew also keeps in-town sidewalk routes clear with special sidewalk machines.
Public Works staff monitor the weather around the clock. The department’s single shift of workers plow every street at least once during their 12-hour shifts – the longest period allowed under MTO guidelines – and in bad weather could be back on the road just 10 hours later.
The faster they can clear those routes, the sooner you’ll be able to get around with ease. There are ways for local residents to help that process go faster, says Fisher.
- Give plows and sanders room. They make frequent stops and may back up to move to another part of their route. Be courteous, keep your distance behind them – the best place to be on a snowy road is behind a plow; the road ahead will be in worse condition – and move around when the driver motions for you to go ahead. A good rule for keeping your distance: if you can’t see the driver in his mirrors, he can’t see you either.
- Mark your garbage bins or mailboxes, particularly if you are a seasonal resident, so that they aren’t damaged by a passing plow. If they’re buried in the snow, the drive can’t see them.
- Keep your garbage bags and recycling bins back off the sidewalk on garbage collection day. It takes sidewalk crews longer to clear routes if they have to move these out of the way, and if they are perched on top of a snow bank a plow may end up pushing them down the road.
- Ask your children not to play on our build snow forts in roadside banks. Yes, it’s fun but plow drivers can’t see them if they are behind, or worse, inside a snow bank. For their safety, keep them away.
- Don’t park your vehicle on the street overnight. Vehicles that interfere with snow removal will be towed with the owner responsible for the sizable towing fee.
When there’s no fresh snow, the Public Works crew moves on to snow removal throughout the winter. Then, when spring arrives, it’s time for culvert clearing and street sweeping.
Frozen culverts can cause roads to flood when the snowpack begins to melt with spring’s warmer temperatures. The Public Works team will monitor culverts that have been problematic while the rest are regularly patrolled to watch for issues. They’ll head out with a Steam Jenny to clear the way for water to flow when a block is discovered.
Once the snow is gone, the crew will begin street sweeping. It takes approximately a one month period to clear all of the roads of debris. Be patient while waiting for them to get to yours.
When you encounter any of the Public Works fleet, remember to go slow, be patient, and stay safe. And if you have any Public Works concerns, contact the Town’s Customer Service Desk at 705-789-1751 or on the second floor of Town Hall.
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