Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Follow Up report from City Operations to come in review of Prince Rupert's Snow Daze of the last month

The month of adverse weather and how the City's operations department
addressed the challenges made for some of the discussion at 
Monday's Prince Rupert Council Session

The month of cold, snow and ice made for a few minutes of discussion on Monday evening, as a few members of Prince Rupert Council offered support and praise of the civic work force for their efforts, while also seeking out some background on what the city may have learned from a week of challenging weather.

The recent snowfall dominated the first half of the Comments period at the end of the Monday night session, with Councillor Nick Adey leading off the discussion noting of the impact on Prince Rupert but the challenges the weather has brought to other part of the province as well.

"Now I do understand that not only has it been challenging to deal with here, but it's been challenging throughout the province, I saw news reports out of West Kelowna you know saying what a mess things have been down here. And there have been some concerns expressed by the public.  

Now having said that , I want to put it into context from my perspective, is I'm not sure that we've seen quite a perfect kind of combination  of adverse conditions come at us quite in the magnitude that it did.

We had a heavy snow fall at first, followed by a deep freeze, followed by a rapid melt, followed by more snow and anther deep freeze, followed now you know we're in the middle of I hope the last melt to this particular version. 

So I understand that it's been very difficult and I also understand that the city crews have done yeoman's work in trying to deal with it" -- Councillor Nick Adey on Prince Rupert's month of adverse weather

The Councillor did however look to city staff for some guidance on three issues that members of the community had noted.  

That of the nature of the compact ice of the city streets that had formed, issues related to sidewalks being cleared after the streets being plowed noting of the jurisdictional issues with province on McBride Street, with his third point of that of some of the flooding that was found during the melting phases.

Towards those themes,  his questions for city staff were:

"How did the city experience and respond to these things as they are occurring, and if we had a do over which might happen if climate change goes the way we're told it will, what might we do, what might   we learn, in order to do it differently. 

Both in  the short term, but also in terms of long term planning for personnel and equipment, whatever else need to consider in the long term. So what did we do, what might we do differently I guess is the short version of that"

Rob Buchan, the City Manager observed that the questions were very good ones, but may require some time to fully respond to, however he did invite Director of Operations Richard Pucci to share a few comments related to the work of the last month.

For his part, Mr. Pucci recounted much of the city's efforts through the period of adverse weather to address the challenges of the hyper-cold and the abnormal weather challenges over the past few weeks.

"I will say that I am very proud of the staff and how they took the challenges this year, you know we had hyper-cold, we had more snow  than we had since some people say the seventies, before my time. But they say, you know this is really abnormal for us,  and I agree, in my time here we haven't had these back to back challenges that we saw over the past few weeks"  -- City of Prince Rupert Operations Director Richard Pucci

He also pointed out that  the weather did take place during the Christmas break, which left the city somewhat short staffed,  a situation which was combined with some illness that was going around town at the time.

As for the city's response the Operations Director outlined that the city brought on an extra crew, used Overtime and made use of contractors to help keep the city as safe as they possibly could.

When it comes to a review, Mr. Pucci observed the the city had already started with what he called a "Look Back' which  will review the response, with some of the focus to be directed towards the following:

"Is there is certain equipment that works better, is there certain equipment that other people that maybe we should purchase, should we be more proactive on clearing catch basins so on and so forth."

He highlighted the challenges of the ice that was fuelled by the hyper-cold noting how it quickly became compacted and became sheer ice and the only way to get at it was to chip away at it.

As for the "Look Back" process, Mr. Pucci said that he would be preparing  a report to Council in the weeks to come to explore some the work of the last month.

Director of Operations Richard Pucci made note of some of the
measures used by the city during the last month of snow, including
the use of space such as the Civic Centre parking lot above for
snow storage from the city's clearing efforts

"We can look at areas where we can clear the snow and bring it to, instead of doing that sort of ad hoc, so this year we used the Civic Centre parking lot, we used some of our vacant lots. 

But we can look at going around and seeing where in every area, where we can have these little pockets that we can put snow.

But I will prepare over the next few weeks after a look back on how we attacked it I can provide a memo to Council of some of the good, some of the bad and some of the ideas for the future"

The City Manager rejoined the discussion at that point noting that the winter situation was a continuation of the chaellenging conditions the city has faced from the Wind storms of the fall period and how the city crews have been dealing with quite a bit this year and rising to the challenge.

Councillor Adey concurred with those thoughts and observed on the  first class efforts from city staff.

Other comments on the recent weather came from Councillor Cunningham who had strong comments to make on the work of the Provincial contractor and how their removal work made things a challenge for pedestrians in the city.

"On snow removal, where are we with jurisdiction on say McBride and Second Avenue, where it's a provincial highway, the contractor put all the snow on the sidewalks, made it impassible, people were walking on the actual road because there was two to three, to four feet of snow on the sidewalk. 

You know like, are we responsible for the sidewalk, but they're responsible fo the highway. Or, are they responsible for both?  Because they took a situation that was bad and  made it worse, you know people were trying to struggle walking on the sidewalk and slipping onto the road and things like that.

And I think it's something that we should actually point out to the Department of Highways, that the contractor created a very unsafe situation on a main thoroughfare for pedestrians" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

In response, Mr. Pucci recounted some of the efforts on the main thoroughfares, noting how the city used the Civic Centre parking lot for storage of the excess snow,  as well as to  reinforce how the City had taken on the work of removing the snow along the sidewalks of the arterial roads of McBride and Second Avenue West.

As well the Operations Director  noted that the the city has maintained care and control and maintenance for the McBride sidewalks under the current agreement with the Ministry.

Councillor Cunningham also returned to his frequent themes of the need for enforcement of the City's Snow Removal Bylaw and called for it to be followed up on by City staff.

To that topic, the City Administrator Ms. Rosa Miller, outlined the steps the city was taking with letters the next step for those not in compliance with the bylaw requirements, which could result in infractions with immediate fines moving forward.

"We did have bylaw reach out to the business owners that were not in compliance with the bylaw. We will be following up with letters, as I suspect given that it's just January 10th we will have more snow to deal with. 

So going forward, any future infractions will result in immediate fines, there won't be any chances after this letter goes out.  There will be a reminder of what that bylaw is and what their requirements are under that bylaw" -- Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller 

The Full overview of the city's approach to snow clearing can be reviewed from the Video Archive of Monday's Council session starting at the sixteen minute mark.

Some of the notes on the last month's challenges, along with some of the concerns voiced by residents to the community can be explored further from our items below:

More notes of interest from the Monday Council Session can be reviewed from our Council Timeline feature.

Other notes on civic issues and Council Discussion topics are available from our archive page here.


  1. Talk about blowing smoke the snow started around Dec 12th the city kept getting further and further behind on snow removal. There was never a commitment to start trucking it away until it was too late.

    I don't think contractors were called in until New Year’s eve. The city had a notice they were going to clear Crestview on Dec 23rd. This never happen on that date. The city did however have a contractor start on New Year’s day. If the city had of brought the contractors in sooner the city would of saved a lot of premium time.

    I am also getting tired of the bylaw enforcement routine. Every time after it snows the city says it will be different next time. It never is the reason is the city can't keep their sidewalks clear.

    The other cities will start removing snow after the 12 to 16 inches. The idea being you wind up with a mess if you get more. Well we got more.

  2. Hi Nick

    The weather in West Kelowna has absolutely nothing to do with the city's response to snow in Prince Rupert.