Although it's certainly an extreme example, the overhead line in front of this home at the corner of Willow Street and Downie Street was just a few feet above the top of the snow pile in the foreground.

Although it's certainly an extreme example, the overhead line in front of this home at the corner of Willow Street and Downie Street was just a few feet above the top of the snow pile in the foreground.

Snow removal struggles with heavy snowfall, budget, staff, equipment issues

Warning children not to touch the overhead power lines is the hallmark of an above-average snowfall in Revelstoke, and we've reached that peak this 2010-11 snow season.

Warning children not to touch the overhead power lines is the hallmark of an above-average snowfall in Revelstoke, and we’ve reached that peak this 2010-11 snow season.

Public works operations manager Darren Komonoski issued the reminder at the Feb. 15 committee of the whole meeting when he told parents that some snow piles are getting close enough to wires that children playing atop them could reach them.

As of Feb. 13, there has been 432 centimetres of snowfall in Revelstoke, a full 21 centimetres above the 100-year average of 411 centimetres. And there’s more to come; Environment Canada is predicting snow tonight and this weekend.

The snow loads have overwhelmed the city’s snow removal budget and taxed snow removal crews to the limit.

Komonoski said the crews are struggling. Snowstorms in January delivered the annual average in one month. Budgetary constraints, staff shortages, some equipment failures and just plain heavy snowfall has meant the crews aren’t providing the level of snow clearance the city promises. “I can honestly say we haven’t provided that level of service,” Komonoski told the committee. He said crews were doing their “utmost” to keep up despite the constraints.

The restrictions mean crews prioritize snow clearing, leaving some smaller side streets with service far below expectations. Service in general takes longer.

For the calendar year of 2011, city council is proposing a budget of about $786,000 for snow removal and sand removal. Currently, costs for snow removal sit at $734,000 for 2011. That’s not counting the rest of this winter, sand removal in the spring and whatever comes in November and December of this year.

Komonoski said the costs for snow removal is between $1,700–$2,000 per centimetre of snow. However, costs this year have been compounded by the heavy snowfall, which means there isn’t much space to store it all.

When there’s less snow that is more evenly distributed over the year, crews have the option of pushing it to the side of the road and hoping some will melt. When it all comes at once, that doesn’t work. This contributes to inflated hauling costs, which drives up the snow removal bill.

Snowfall during this La Nina season is in stark contrast to the 2009–10 season when only 210 centimetres fell. That was the fifth least-snowiest season since records began in Revelstoke.

The 1971–72 was the snowiest on record, when a total of 779 centimetres fell. That year was somewhat of an anomaly, topping the runner-up 1955–56 season (635 centimetres) by over 144 centimetres.

For answers to common snow removal questions, and safety tips for children, visit the City of Revelstoke homepage at www.cityofrevelstoke.com/ and see the snow removal brochure on the Engineering & Public Works homepage.

Revelstoke Times Review