Snow, ice turn city streets into nightmare

New Westminster was hit with a perfect storm of sorts Tuesday, and that was followed up by a winter wonderland of snow Wednesday morning.

The city's roads were gridlocked during Tuesday's morning rush hour thanks to an icestorm hitting in the early morning hours. City engineering manager Jim Lowrie said all of its equipment was deployed by 5 a.m., but the snow trucks also got caught up in the rush hour traffic.

"That's one challenge we had," said Lowrie Tuesday afternoon.

Lowrie said an intense ice storm hit the city just before the rush hour leaving frozen ice pellets on the road with snow on top. The forecast Monday evening had prompted the city to have crews administering a salt brine to the streets but that wasn't as effective as usual.

"Freezing rain stays frozen and doesn't melt as quickly as snow does. We did have trucks out but we didn't have a chance to fully address that before the rush hour," said Lowrie.

In addition, he said, crews contracted by the province and TransLink weren't able to clear the Queensborough and Pattullo bridges before rush hour backing up traffic on both sides of those structures.

"It was a pretty extreme event. I understand it was about up to four centimetres in two hours," said Lowrie.

New Westminster also has many steep hills with commercial businesses and residential units on them making the streets busy and difficult to clean. Lowrie said portions of Cumberland Street and Third, Fourth and Queens avenues were closed because the steep terrain didn't allow city trucks to safely navigate them.

The crews were kept hopping again on Wednesday as another storm rolled in. Manager of engineering operations Jon McDonald said it was a busy night and a hectic day for city crews.

"It's all over the map because it's snowing hard at some points, and at some points not," said McDonald. "I think we've done well. All the streets are pretty drivable."

He said there wasn't nearly the amount of gridlock on Wednesday as there was Tuesday. McDonald suspects many commuters decided to stay home or take an alternative method of transportation.

The forecast called for the snow to be replaced by rain the rest of the week and into the weekend. While that should wash the snow away it will present another problem.

"It's supposed to [rain]. But then you get into the flooding watch. It's a little ways to go before it's finished," said McDonald.

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