Calgary's spent $1M so far to clear the 11 cm of snow that fell this weekend

Here's how the numbers break down when the city experiences a big snowfall, and why snow-clearing in Calgary is so complex.

Coun. Ward Sutherland explains the costs associated with a big snowfall

Calgary spent $1 million so far clearing snow following the wintry weather this weekend. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

About 11 centimetres of snow fell across Calgary this weekend — and so far it's cost the city $1 million to clean it up.

In the city's last big snow event, where 16 centimetres fell over two days in late November, the city spent $2.06 million on cleanup.

The city's snow-clearing budget was $39.2 million from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of this year, and Coun. Ward Sutherland said those number show just how quickly that budget can get eaten away every time there's a big dump of snow across the city.

"It's interesting, we just finished budget time, right? People are not realizing — they say, well, you cut, cut out everything, but they're not realizing that services depend on what's going on," he said Monday evening. "It's quite expensive."

The day after a snowfall ends, the city starts its seven-day snow plan by plowing major roads with more than 20,000 vehicles a day, business routes with more than 8,000 vehicles a day, downtown cycle tracks and high-foot-traffic areas like overpasses and LRT platforms.

On the second day after a snowfall, the city moves on to clearing routes with 5,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day, intersections controlled by traffic lights, emergency routes and bus routes and other trouble spots. And so on, and so forth, until the next snowfall begins.

So, from the time snow stopped falling around mid-afternoon Sunday and Monday evening, that's how the $1 million was spent, Sutherland said.

The city also clears hundreds of kilometres of sidewalks and pathways and recently voted to add $9.5 million to its budget for improvements next year to snow and ice control for sidewalks and pathways. No additional money was allocated for clearing snow on roads — as there's currently $12.5 million sitting in the city's snow reserve fund.

Sutherland said if the city gets close to using up that fund, that's when they start looking at upping snow-removal funding.

That cost quickly gets driven up if the city has to deal with continuous snowfall.

"It's kind of like when you go out to shovel your driveway, and you just, you know, you got the half-inch on your driveway shoveled, and when you finish shovelling it the half inch is back again. If it snows and stops, then it's less costly and faster. But if it's continually snowing then they have to continually go the route again," he said.

Sutherland shared a few more numbers of how that two-day, late November snowfall broke down:

  • 3,220 tonnes of salt were used.
  • 600 tonnes of pickling solution.
  • 14,550 litres of calcium chloride.
  • 723 service requests to 311.

Sutherland said Calgary's snow-removal costs are high for a few reasons, from its large size, to fluctuating temperatures due to Chinook winds that add to the complexity.

"Everybody has recommendations of how snow should get done in Calgary. But we are very unique."