Sunday, January 12, 2014

How are others in northern Alberta/BC dealing with this snow?

I'm sure by now you've heard how this has been a record-breaking year for snow across much of northern Alberta/BC.  I thought it would be useful to look at how other cities are doing on residential snow removal to put our efforts in context and to look for best practices as it relates to policy. 

My research is based on searches of newspaper articles, Facebook/Twitter feeds, press releases and info on municipal websites in addition to anecdotal accounts from people I know in some of the cities.  Please let me know if there's another city I should be looking at or if you can add anything to what's been written.

Grande Prairie

Snowfall this winter: 192 cms

Residential rotations: 2 complete, 3 in some areas. Removal of windrows has commenced. 

Driveway windrow clearing: Council decided to move to the "blitz" method of plowing streets on Dec. 17th which left residents responsible for clearing windrows left at ends of driveways.

Fort St. John

Snowfall this winter: 202 cms

Residential rotations: 1 in mid-December, 1 ongoing

Driveway windrow clearing: Yes

I found an interesting post by FSJ's mayor who was responding to comments that snow removal was taking too long.  She reposted the article in the DHT which talks about GP's switch of policies and suggested that FSJ may want to look at going that route to speed things up.

Dawson Creek

Snowfall this winter: N/A

Residential rotations: 2 complete, Crews are now working on removing snow piles.

Driveway windrow clearing: No

Their website quite bluntly explains why driveway entrances are not cleared:

FAQ: When the snowplow goes by and clears the road, he also blocks my driveway with snow. Will the City clear my driveway?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Clearing individual driveways is extremely expensive and places a huge strain on City resources.

Prince George

Snowfall this winter: N/A

Residential rotations: 1 completed in mid-December, 1 began over the last week

Driveway windrow clearing: Yes

I had the most trouble finding information on PG.  There were no news releases on their website, they don't have a Facebook/Twitter account and there were only a couple articles in the PG Citizen.According to multiple letters to the editor over the last couple of days, there are still many impassable roads with deep ruts being a major concern.

PG does do residential plowing through the night.  When they do this, vehicles are allowed to be parked on the street, but only on the odd side.  Could be something to look at for some areas in GP.

While PG's snow removal website lacks information on when crews are going to be around, it does provide a host of other information that I think would be useful for GP to have as well. You can check it out here.


Snowfall this winter: 82 cms

Residential rotations: 2 completed

Driveway windrow clearing: No

Residential roads in Edmonton are only plowed to a 5cm snow pack.  No windrows are removed from residential areas.  Residents are responsible for clearing out windrows at driveways. 

Interesting part of Edmonton policy: any windrows that are over 30cms in front of driveways, the City will come by and clear out.  I'd like to find out more about how this policy works and see if something could be instituted like this if we continue with this policy.

Here's an easy-to-read breakdown on Edmonton & Calgary's snow removal policies.

Strathcona County (Sherwood Park)

Snowfall this winter: 82 cms

Residential rotations: 1 completed in early December, 1 begins tomorrow (the 13th)

Driveway windrow clearing: N/A

Website says it takes 12 days to complete a full rotation.  Snow policy says that snow is plowed to middle of road and windrowed to be removed later.  This must mean all of Sherwood Park's roads are wide enough to accommodate this.  I haven't spent much time in SP, so let me know if my assumptions are correct.

Red Deer

Snowfall this winter: 112 cms

Residential rotations: 2 surface plows completed, 1 full plow to begin this week

Driveway windrow clearing: No

Red Deer went through a very similar situation to us this year.  They decided in early December that they would initiate surface plowing (or the "blitz" method as we called it) in residential areas where the goal was to create windrows not higher than 16".  They initiated another round of this type of plowing on Jan. 1st and completed plowing on the 10th.  The goal is to now begin a full plow of residential roads with removal of windrows and clearing to pavement.  The estimated time to complete this is 40 days.

St. Albert

Snowfall this winter: 90 cms

Residential rotations: 1 completed in early December

Driveway windrow clearing: Yes

St. Albert is considering doing a second round, but no decision has been made yet.  It takes 2-3 weeks to plow through residential areas.


Not surprisingly, the cities with the "blitz" method have progressed much quicker with their residential snow removal.

There are a number of things we can learn from other cities to improve our policies and I look forward to studying them more as we decide whether to adopt this policy permanently.

I have to give props to all our staff who have been involved with communication.  Our daily updates which span all media types is above par and staff should be commended greatly for this.

Please let me know your thoughts!


  1. Thanks once again for information Rory, these mind of posts help to see how GP is not far off what other cities have always done, major policy change is always hard to handle.

    I am a supporter of what the city has done to change policy with this crazy about of snowfall we have had this year, although from time to time I have to wonder if I am on the right side of the fence, example…

    The other day around 4:30pm there where two plows side by side between city hall and the hospital, could have been further but that was the section I saw. With my common sense hat on I though why are they out blocking traffic during our "rush hour", used loosely, would it not make sense for them to be in a residential area where the car count would be much lower during the day, such as my street which has only been done once, and come back to 99st during the night when there would be very little traffic.

    Just an observation, still support the city, but it does make me shake my head, although to others that is a red flag to a bull.


    Derek Bowen

  2. I like the idea of the cap on windrow height that triggers a city removal. I hear some less able residents voicing opposition to the blitz.