Thunder Bay Snow Removal Strategy

Road Crews in action
Road Crews in action

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – After each major winter storm, there are critics of what the City of Thunder Bay did to clear the snow.

In the December 27, 2021 winter storm, there were reports of Superior EMS units on Southern Avenue needing help to get unstuck.

There were transit buses struggling to keep to their routes that resulted in a suspension of service. The Care Bus one of the vital components in the City’s Cold Weather Alert strategy was forced off the road because of the snow.

Many have taken to social media to complain about the condition of the roads on Monday.

The City states:


The Roads Division relies on approximately 70 pieces of equipment which it either owns or contracts to fight a winter storm. When a winter storm hits Thunder Bay, our first line of defense is the sand/salt truck. If the temperature is above -14° Celsius, salt is placed on the road to prevent the snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. It is important to prevent the bonding of snow to pavement whenever possible so that the plows can be more effective clearing the snow off the pavement and achieving a bare pavement standard, as quickly as possible after the snow has stopped. The prevention of the bond is called the Brine Sandwich affect.


If the temperature is much colder where salt cannot be used, then sand is applied to add friction to the surface of the road. While this is not as effective as salt, the sand provides some traction until the road can be cleared and bare pavement is restored. Because sand breaks down with traffic, during a prolonged cold snap it must be re-applied often, to ensure roads do not become icy and slippery.

Timing of Road Plowing

If the storm has arrived during the day, plows can only be used to remove some of the accumulation off roads and hills that have No Parking Restrictions, in place 24 hours per day. It is important to note that plowing at this time of the day is less effective since plows must contend with moving traffic and pedestrian traffic, which makes the plowing process slower and less effective. This type of plowing (when it can be used), allows people to travel safely home during a winter storm event. After plowing during the day, Crews will be sent home to rest so that they can return to plow at 2 am. At 2 am, the plows hit the roads and begin plowing priority routes which include arterial and collector roadways. At 3 am, sanders hit the road following the routes of the plows, sanding and salting the freshly plowed streets to prevent ice from forming behind the plows.

Sidewalk Plowing

At 3 am, the sidewalk plows are sent out to begin plowing the sidewalks along the freshly plowed streets. They do not go out at the same time as the road plows, so that sidewalk ends do not get plowed back in by the roads plows. The staggering of times works well, as long as there are no breakdowns with equipment.

This is a video NetNewsLedger did in 2020 on snow clearing:

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