Winter 2020 – Snow Clearing in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is a Winter City

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay is a winter city. Yet often it seems to many in the city that snow clearing efforts are a new experience every year.

Drivers who seemingly forget to drive to the conditions, and city roads crews who do not seem sometimes to fully understand that the level at which they do their jobs impacts hundreds if not thousands of people.

As a Northern Winter City, Thunder Bay has experienced two major snowstorms in January 2020. Clearing of city streets and sidewalks has presented some significant challenges. In our downtown areas, business access and frankly, customer and pedestrian safety is put at risk. This winter, especially through January, we experienced quite mild conditions many times throughout the month. This has left snow melting and having nowhere to go in many cases.

Clearing Fire Hydrants

Across the city, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue has asked that residents invest a little effort in clearing the snow from Fire Hydrants. This is a positive and needed effort.

Many hydrants are buried under the snowbanks.

Many fire hydrants are also covered in red bags marking them as out of service. If there were a fire, either fire fighters would have to be spending valuable time digging out hydrants, or having to run water longer distances to reach a fire depending on the situation.

NetNewsLedger Asked Roads Manager Brad Adams these Questions:

NetNewsLedger: When are the snowbanks in downtown business areas slated for removal?

Brad Adams: Snow removal of banks commenced on January 20 2020 and should be completed in the core areas by early next week.

NetNewsLedger: When there is a call into dispatch, what is the normal time frame for action on that call?

Brad Adams: This is dependent on the priorities  and liability concerns the Roads Section is/are dealing with at the time. For example – if we get a call regarding a pothole and we are dealing with a winter event, the winter event takes priority and all resources are assigned to deal with this issue till we have met our Roads Maintenance Objective.

Once resources are freed up from dealing with the winter event the pothole concern will then be addressed. If we receive a back to back storm situation then the time line for responding to concern could be longer.

NetNewsLedger: Is there a way to clear sidewalks so there are NOT four inches of snow blocking people from actually walking, and honestly preventing people with wheelchairs from riding on the sidewalks?

Brad Adams: The standard for the surface condition on sidewalks is identified in our Roads Maintenance Objective as a snowpack surface. Due to the amount of snow, we have received the clearing of sidewalks required the Roads Section to clear sidewalks with the blower attachment on the sidewalk plows.

This equipment enables us to open the sidewalk to the proper width, however, the clearing process is slower and the machine cannot put done pressure on the sidewalk to scrap it. Once all sidewalks are open we will then assign resources to sand the sidewalk and scrape the surface at the same time. Consideration of the time it takes to scrap all sidewalk is dependent on what other task/priorities the Section is dealing with at the time.

The current situation has the majority of Roads staff dealing with snow removal concerns during the night time and daytime, while remaining staff are dealing with other liability concerns (potholes, sanding/patrolling roadways,  sanding/patrolling sidewalks, signs, sightline concerns at an intersection- high banks, etc.) All our resources plus service providers are being utilized to respond to demands/requests and liability concerns placed on the City at this time.