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New West crews ready to respond to snowfall warning

Snowfall and Arctic outflow advisories keep City of New Westminster crews busy tending to city streets.
Snow Plow New West December 2021
City trucks were out in force for a winter snowfall in December 2021

New Westminster’s engineering operations crews have been busy brining and salting roads in response to recent freezing temperatures and the predicted snowfall.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a snowfall warning for Mero Vancouver, with accumulations of 10 to 20 centimetres forecast. It’s reporting that a snow storm is expected to arrive tonight, and continue through Wednesday afternoon or early evening.

“All of our roads are either brined or salted in preparation of this evening’s event,” said Gabe Beliveau, the city’s director of engineering operations. “This is a continuation of the long cold than we have been experiencing.”

Beliveau said the city has been preparing for tonight’s snowfall.

“Conditions are a little different than our standard winter, and we are preparing as such,” he told the Record. “All of our equipment is ready. We have full crews pre-scheduled for tonight in preparation for an evening snowfall, and then we have a full schedule of crews scheduled for tomorrow, where we will see the largest prediction of snowfall accumulation.”

Forecasts suggest the snow could start around 10 p.m.

“So we will be on the road prior to that in preparation,” he said. “We will be doing a fresh pre-treat of the roads for our priority 1 and 2s, and expect a heavy snowfall to begin anywhere between 10 p.m. and midnight, with significant increases to precipitation through the morning rush hour and into the late afternoon.”

Priority 1 routes include key arterials – and roads leading to the hospital and to bridges. Priority 2 focuses on connector networks, around schools and on steeper hills.

“In general, if you don’t need to leave your home, please stay home and be safe,” Beliveau advises motorists. “If you do need to leave, ensure your vehicle is well-equipped and you drive for the conditions.”

In response to the recent cold weather, the City of New Westminster had to tweak its road preparation practices.

“For the cold, at certain temperatures the salt doesn’t activate with moisture. So at times we relied more on our brine, so our salt water mix. That has a lasting effect,” Beliveau explained. “In some areas of the city we have had to remove an accumulation of snow and ice as the conditions don’t permit for it to thaw at the speed as normal. We had to do that in a few areas.”

One of those areas was a stretch of McInnes Street, between Queens and Royal avenues.

“We have an underground spring that pops up there, so we will be investigating that further as we progress,” Beliveau said. “Currently there is a natural spring water flow that is exposing itself there. So we are actively salting and removing any accumulation as it pops up.”

Frozen pipes

The snowfall that’s forecast for tonight and tomorrow comes on the heels of some unseasonably cold temperatures in the Lower Mainland. Environment and Climate Change Canada issued an Arctic outflow warning late last week.

While the cold snap created opportunities for outdoor skating in some communities, it also resulted in frozen pipes for some residents – including some in New West who had to stock up on bottled water because they didn’t have running water.

Beliveau said the BC Building Code requires pipes be installed below the frost line.

“So down here that’s an 18-inch frost line,” he said of the Lower Mainland. “That is fairly standard to the weather we see. When we see these colder snaps the frost line dips below that a little bit.”

Beliveau said homeowner may want to connect with a plumber or inspector for longer term fixes if “these deeper colds” continue into the future.

“For short-term solutions, we recommend that they run their cold water tap through the cold,” he said. “When the water is running, it doesn’t have the ability to freeze as quickly. That should keep the lines open.”

According to Beliveau, engineering operations received about 16 calls on the weekend from residents seeking support in addressing frozen pipes.

“Unfortunately, there is not much that we can do. We provide recommendations as best as possible, and we have a couple of tips and tricks that we inform them of, such as the cold water running,” he said. “The main lines, the water mains, they are not affected.”

Snow reminders from the City of New Westminster:

  • The City of New Westminster’s street and traffic bylaw requires property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their property by no later than 10 a.m. of the day following a snowfall event. The city asks that people clear the full length and width of the sidewalk of snow and ice down to bare concrete to ensure accessibility for all citizens.
  • An overnight warming centre will be open at 40 Begbie St. (access from Alexander St) 10:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. from Tuesday, Jan. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 18. 
  • A daytime warming centre will be open at 502 Columbia St. (access from Front Street) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17 and Thursday, Jan. 18.
  • Call the Extreme Weather and Emergency Response Info Line at 604-239-4936 to get updates on weather response in New Westminster.