The greater Quesnel area received more than 50 centimetres of snow in most areas over a 24 hour period yesterday, and the plows have not stopped working since the storm began.
Emcon Services holds the highway maintenance contract with the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for the North Cariboo, and operations manager Bill Pattyson says Emcon’s drivers have been working around the clock since the start of the storm on Thursday morning.
“Fifty-plus centimetres of snow in 24 hours is not what you would call a normal experience,” he says.
“We’ve called people in on overtime and every piece of our equipment is out plowing snow. We have two hired pieces of equipment that are also out.
“We will continue until every road is plowed.”
Emcon’s contract does not include plowing roads in the City of Quesnel, which has its own services. The company has 56 pieces of equipment in the area, plus the two hired graders.
Its northern boundary is 30 km south of Prince George, roughly where the construction begins. In the south, Emcon plows to Mountain House Road, south of McLeese Lake. To the west, its boundary is the end of Batnuni Road, about 148 km west of Quesnel; and the eastern boundary is 120 km east of Quesnel, near Bowron Lake.
“There are over 2,000 kilometres of roads in the Quesnel area. Times that by two, because you have to plow the road both ways… it just takes time,” says Pattyson.
“We have more equipment than we are required to by the Ministry, and our goal every time it snows is to have every road plowed within 48 hours of the end of the snowfall.”
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Pattyson says his drivers responded to calls yesterday near Cottonwood River Bridge along Highway 97 North, when large semi-trailer trucks were spinning out on the hill.
“It’s a matter of truck drivers thinking they don’t need chains. One will go up and spin out. The other guy decides he’s better, so he tries too with no chains; he gets right beside the first one and spins out. Then the third guy does the same thing and now the road’s closed.”
He says Emcon went out and controlled traffic for 15 or 20 minutes while the drivers put on their chains, and traffic was on its way again quickly.
Pattyson says only one of his drivers got stuck himself, calling in after not being able to get out of his own long driveway.
“We’ll send a half-ton with a plow on the front to get him out,” laughs Pattyson.
“Emcon doesn’t give up. We will have your roads plowed out as soon as we can.”