Winnipeg plowing crews 'just go from one thing to another' as they struggle to keep up with snowfall

Winnipeg snow clearing crews are working around the clock to clear the roads, but some drivers say it's not enough.

'We don't get any breaks [in the weather] this winter,' says city's street maintenance manager

Snow plows clear Academy Road on Thursday. So far in February, the City of Winnipeg has already received more snow than the monthly average of 15.1 centimetres. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Laura Carr only needs one word to describe what it's like driving in Winnipeg this winter.

"Hell," said the retired Winnipegger.

Ruts on residential roads, high snow banks blocking the driver's view and slippery intersections are all reasons the anxious driver believes city crews need to up their snow-clearing game.

"They've done an adequate job, but they could do better," she told CBC News Thursday, as crews continued to work to clear snow — and prepare for more.

Parts of Winnipeg have received 36 centimetres of snow in February alone, according to CBC meteorologist John Sauder. The average total snowfall for this month is 15.1 centimetres.

There's more on the way Friday and into the weekend, Sauder says, with blizzard warnings in effect for most of southern Manitoba.

The snow that has fallen so far this season has come in several patches, according to the city's street maintenance manager. Multiple snowfalls of five to 10 centimetres each have made it difficult for crews to keep up.

"We don't get any breaks [in the weather] this winter," said Michael Cantor.

"In the past we had some breaks that we can finish clearing the city very well. This year, we just don't get that chance. We just go from one thing to another, then back to the first."

Crews have been working 12-hour shifts every day for the past few weeks to deal with all the snow, said Cantor.

So far this season, they've cleared an accumulated 300,000 kilometres of windrows (snow piled onto boulevards), and removed about 800,000 cubic metres of snow.

The city's Kenaston-based snow removal site already reached capacity in January. The other three city sites are about half full, said Cantor. He doesn't expect them to reach capacity before the season ends.

Crews are working on clearing windrows and high snowbanks on priority streets like Portage Avenue, Pembina Highway and Provencher Boulevard, Cantor said.

'Perfect storm' slows sidewalk clearing

There are some low-priority sidewalks and pathways, though, that haven't been touched in days. That's made walking to school or the bus stop quite challenging lately, says University of Manitoba student Marielle Leyva.

"It's like I'm working out," she said.

University of Manitoba student Marielle Leyva said walking to school or the bus stop is like a workout due to high snow banks and uncleared paths. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Cantor said the lack of sidewalk and pathway clearing is due to what he calls "the perfect storm" — lots of snow over time, freezing temperatures that render using salt ineffective, broken and damaged equipment, and supply delays caused by COVID-19 that have slowed repairs.

"We do hire whatever is available from the industry. We use every piece of equipment every day — every man and machine available to us," said Cantor.

"This year's a very exceptional year. I think we would have done much better when we didn't have those consecutive snow events."

Cantor said he and his staff are tracking how long it's taking them to clear roads for the first time this year. They will bring a report to city councillors once the season is over with data, along with suggestions of how to improve snow clearing in Winnipeg.

Last year, the city went over its snow clearing budget by $7 million, mostly due to high snowfall in November and December. Cantor said he can't predict how this year's $35-million budget will handle 2022's significant snowfall.

To deal with the coming snow, the Manitoba government is preparing its snow removal crews.

A Thursday statement from the transportation and infrastructure department says the province is preparing to deploy its heavy equipment fleet, which includes approximately 340 truck plows, de-icing equipment and graders.

City crews struggling to keep up with snowfall on Winnipeg streets

1 year ago
Duration 2:57
Winnipeg drivers and city plow operators have had their hands full with the heavy snowfall the city has experienced in recent weeks.


Sam Samson


Sam Samson is a senior reporter for CBC News, based in Regina. She's a multimedia journalist who has also worked for CBC in Winnipeg and Sudbury. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email


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