British Columbia

Vancouver slow off the mark in response to 3rd big snowfall

Just 10 of city's 38 snow-clearing trucks and salters were dispatched overnight Sunday

sidestreet

Vancouver streets were a slushy mess Monday morning after wet snow fell over the region overnight. (David Horemans/CBC)

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The City of Vancouver has a fleet of nearly 40 trucks that can plow and salt city streets, but only 10 of those vehicles were dispatched overnight Sunday as thick, wet snow blanketed the city and region.

By morning, rush hour was a mess as vehicles and buses inched along slushy, snow-laden streets.

It was no better for transit users.

Commuters at bus stops and SkyTrain stations faced long lines and delayed services. At the Commercial-Broadway station around noon, Millennium Line passengers trying to transfer to the Expo Line were lined up at the stairs to catch a train.

Those who managed to get up on the platform faced crowds six-deep while arriving trains were already jammed full, with only enough passengers disembarking to permit a handful at each door to board. Many simply gave up.

The City of Vancouver's deputy general manager of engineering, Cheryl Nelms, told reporters that the city was caught off guard by the heavy overnight snow.

Nelms said the weather was clear on Sunday, and the forecast called for more rain than snow. As a result, 10 trucks were dispatched.

She noted that city crews had been salting streets throughout the weekend, and city officials thought this response was sufficient.

"We had crews out, and yes we felt that was enough at that time," Nelms said.

However, by 3 a.m. Monday, it was snowing hard and the city made the decision to dispatch all 38 trucks. But it took a couple of hours to mobilize the fleet.

The vehicles weren't on the streets until 6 a.m., Nelms said

By then, the morning rush was underway and many streets — particularly side streets — were clogged with wet snow.

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The snow caused transit delays. Even buses had trouble navigating the slippery streets and many were jam-packed. (Mike Clarke/CBC)

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe disagreed that the blast of snow was a surprise, saying city officials had a lot of lead time on this weather event.

"Environment Canada was sending out a heads-up to city officials for a very disruptive snow to rain event for today as early as a week ago," she said.

"They also issued a special weather statement for the event last Friday."

"We knew that we were going to get a lot of snow on Sunday followed by a warm-up and rain for Monday. That always equals a big mess on the roads for us."

In West Vancouver, a smaller city, municipal officials dispatched six of the city's nine snow removal trucks early Sunday morning shortly after midnight, said spokesman Jeff McDonald.

Those trucks have been working continuously since then, McDonald said.

Vancouver's messy streets posed difficulties for all commuters, including those on foot.

Susan Brooks walked from Stanley Park to Kitsilano Monday morning to babysit her granddaughter, crossing the Burrard Street bridge before 8 a.m.

Brooks said not one sidewalk was cleared 

"Going over the bridge is just crazy," she said. "Hundreds of people are walking it, and the sidewalks aren't cleared at all.

"Every step you're slipping and sliding."

With files from Farrah Merali

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