A combination of a later than predicted snowfall and morning rush hour led to hazardous driving conditions on many of Richmond’s main roads Wednesday.
City of Richmond’s plowing teams were ready and waiting at 1 a.m. and then backed up by more staff at 4:30 a.m. for the forecasted heavy snow.
However, despite the main arterials being pre-treated ahead of time, the thick stuff didn’t begin to fall until after 6 a.m..
And by that time, says the city, the rush hour commute was in full swing, hindering and slowing down the crews from clearing the main roads as planned.
“We had crews starting at 1 a.m. and then again at 4 a.m., but there was no snow,” said city spokeswoman Kim Decker.
“Everyone was ready to go, but the snow hadn’t arrived.”
Stretches of Steveston Highway, Westminster Highway and Garden City Road were proving difficult to negotiate, right up until 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Several people contacted the News, wondering why a widely predicted snowfall was causing so much grief.
“Why has there not been any snow clearing this morning?” asked Bernie Koestlmaier in an email.
“We knew this was coming and the roads were not safe. Buses were getting stuck for God’s sake.”
“This is simply unacceptable.”
Decker said the city’s Snow and Ice Response plan was implemented Wednesday and backed up throughout the day by a monitoring of road sensor temperatures, the forecast and a switch to flood prevention as rain swept in during the afternoon to wash the snow away.
She said the first crew, at 1 a.m. started clearing access to city facilities (such as fire halls, community centres, RCMP headquarters) and by 4:30 a.m., all first priority roads were pre-treated on schedule.
However, after up to seven centimetres of snow fell between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., the city’s 11 salting/plowing trucks, three backhoes and a small roads salter got caught, like everyone else, in the rush hour.
“The speed of traffic naturally slows down as volumes increase during rush hour,” explained Decker in an email.
“As well, traffic generally slows down during bad weather. City snow plows and salters are susceptible to the same traffic conditions and therefore were caught in traffic congestion.”
Two downed trees in Richmond also blocked roads (No. 2, between Granville and Blundell, and Williams and Railway) but were quickly removed and the roads were re-opened.
It would appear, however, that Richmond got off lightly, with many of Vancouver’s steeper streets at a standstill and the Port Mann Bridge totally closing in the afternoon due to ice blocks falling from the structure onto cars below.
With more rain expected tonight (Wednesday), city staff shifted their efforts from snow removal to flood prevention in order to minimize potential risks associated with localized flooding.
“Residents and businesses are asked to please clear gutters and catch basins to help reduce the possibilities of localized flooding,” added Decker.