Capital region digs itself out of snowstorm

The snow has stopped falling but crews clearing Ottawa's streets and sidewalks are working overtime, as are hydro workers in both northeastern Ontario and western Quebec.

Hydro crews restoring power as wet snow freezes, making cleanup difficult

Children around the region were enjoying the new layer of snow - 25 cm of it - that fell on the Ottawa and surrounding areas over the past 24 hours.

As children across the region frolicked in a winter wonderland, courtesy of a snowstorm that dumped nearly 25 centimetres between Friday and Saturday mornings, adults took up the unenviable task of clearing residential driveways and walkways.

Working around the clock since the storm began more than 24 hours ago, the City of Ottawa's 500-strong snow removing machine continued clearing streets — sometimes making three or more passes on the same stretch.

Kevin Wylie, manager of roads and traffic operations for the city, said the duration of the storm has made the task of clearing snow difficult.

"It's a challenging storm because we've had to go back over and over the priorities," Wylie told CBC. "Today we're still salting and sanding spots ... especially on the rural areas where we're getting blowing snow and ice formation."

That snow and ice were responsible for 100 collisions and vehicle mishaps, including the rollover of an OC Transpo double-decker bus and a fatality after a man was hit by a vehicle walking along Highway 307 on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon a rollover at Baseline and Woodroffe avenues tied up traffic, but such incidents were fewer than on Friday.  

'Arm-strong work'

While main arteries were the focus of the first wave of snow removal, even by Saturday afternoon much of the city's residential streets remained inundated with the heavy, wet snow.

"It's been an effort, I mean you just got to take your time and it will all get done," said Jimmy Sharp from his backhoe in the city's service today.  "It's a little more intense and a little more than we usually get ... but it's the Christmas rush and people are looking to get where they want to go and get their shopping done."

Many residential streets in Ottawa looked much like this Saturday afternoon as snow removal crews for the city were tied up clearing main roads.

"I'd rather be doing other things, but it's all money in the bank for me," he added.

For shoveller Gord Beckingham, who was pushing snow for a private snow removal company, he was on his 28th walkway when CBC caught up with him.

"It's been a tough one because it's heavy snow," Beckingham said before flexing his left arm. "We're using shovels and it's arm-strong work."

And it was a strong storm that first blasted the city with freezing rain followed by wet heavy snow as the temperatures hovered around zero degrees Celsius. By Saturday morning, most of the puddles and the wet snow were frozen into a nearly immovable mess in front of driveways and on residential streets yet to be given the plough treatment.

In the dark

Ottawa Hydro customers' were not experiencing power outages, but approximately 2,000 Hydro One customers in outlaying areas were without electricity as of 5 p.m. Saturday — a marked improvement compared to 24 hours earlier when nearly 8,000 Hydro One customers were without power east and west of Ottawa.

The power situation on the other side of the Ottawa River, however, appeared to be getting worse. On Friday more than 18,000 customers in pockets across western Quebec, including in the Papineau, Gatineau Valley, Collines-de-l'Outaouais, Pontiac regions and in the City of Gatineau, were out of power.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, CBC confirmed that figure had climbed to 22,000.