Toronto got off easy last winter, with mild temperatures and very little snowfall.
And while Toronto’s works department is hoping for more of the same this winter, they’re not betting on it.
“We’re hoping for another mild winter but we’re ready if we have a heavy snowfall,” said public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong Tuesday, Nov. 20, as the city unveiled its 2012-2013 winter snow clearing plan.
The mild winter past has left the city with a $20 million surplus on top of its annual $86 million snow clearing budget — but that surplus could evaporate if the rest of November and December prove more blustery.
To that end, the city has readied its fleet of 1,100 snow clearing vehicles to keep the keep the roads and sidewalks clear: 600 snow plows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks.
They’ll be deployed to various types of roadways depending on the severity of the storm.
Once snow begins, the city sends out salt trucks to main roads and expressways. When the snow reaches 2.5 centimetres, snow clearing starts on expressways; at five centimetres, arterial roads will be cleared. When it hits eight centimetres, local roads will get ploughed.
“Some people think that once a few centimetres fall on the ground you should be on my street. Well, that’s the standard,” Minnan-Wong said.
He said the city is ready to deal with most snowfalls, but admitted that if the city gets hit with an unusually large snowfall — such as the one in 1999 that caused then-Mayor Mel Lastman to call in the army to clear snow and make the city the butt of jokes — it would be a challenge.
“We’re ready for winter,” he said. “I don’t think anyone was ready for 1999. We’ve got enough resources but in the case of a 1999 storm, if that were to happen all over again everybody would be challenged to deal with it.”
As always, the city is asking residents in downtown neighbourhoods to clear the snow on sidewalks in front of their houses, but elsewhere the city will endeavour to clear sidewalk snow itself.
The city is also getting ready to deal with another bane of winter: frozen watermains. The city is continuing to replace aging watermains, but crews are on call 24/7 to repair any that break.
Anyone seeing broken water mains is advised to call 311 to report it.