PEI

P.E.I. snow removal companies say so far this year, business is booming

Snow removal contractors on P.E.I. say this winter business has been booming.

'People just cannot handle these 40 centimetre snowfalls'

P.E.I. has been hit by multiple snowstorms so far this winter, which means snow removal companies are busier than ever. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Snow removal companies on P.E.I. say this winter season has been good for business so far. 

The Island has been hit by a number of winter storms early into 2022 — during some, parts of P.E.I. saw between 30 and 50 centimetres of snow and ice pellets. 

While for many businesses this has meant closing up shop, for snow removal companies business has been busy as ever. 

Gary Nicholson, co-owner of Dickieson Snow Removal in Charlottetown, said in the last month he's seen a spike in the number of people looking for service.

"In the last two storms we gained like, 65 to 75 driveways," he said. "That's quite a bit because people just said, 'The heck with it, it's too much.'"

'People just cannot handle these 40 centimetre snowfalls,' says Thane Kennedy, owner of Thane's Snow Removal in Cornwall. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

But it's not just the increase in customers that's keeping his employees busy, it's the amount of snow. 

"We're out longer, we're out longer term and actually we do more snow blowing this year than we normally do," he said.

Nicholson said in many cases this year there's too much snow to push out of driveways with a plow attached to a truck. Instead, crews have to use snow blowers to throw the snow onto lawns to get it out of the way. 

That's something Thane Kennedy has noticed as well. He owns Thane's Snow Removal in Cornwall and said this year his workday usually begins at 1 a.m. and ends once the last driveway is plowed, usually around 6 p.m. His said his client list is also growing. 

"People just cannot handle these 40 centimetre snowfalls," he said. "When you get amounts like this it gets overwhelming for people and the calls coming in, it's either they can't handle it or their smaller equipment has broken down." 

He said he serves about 115 customers who have seasonal contracts, but with each winter storm he sees up to 40 extra calls from customers looking for one-time service. 

"They're so impressed with the work we've done for them that they keep calling back," he said. 

More maintenance, long hours

Nicholson said when his employees aren't on the road, they're spending a lot more time in the shop doing maintenance or repairs on their equipment.

"When you have a lot of snow like we've had, like 50 centimetres of snow, we have a lot more breakage," he said. 

Nicholson said at this point he hasn't had to hire any extra staff to manage the added workload, but his crew is certainly putting in more hours.

Snow removal companies across P.E.I. say they've been busy this winter and are getting calls from several new clients following a number of winter storms. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Both Nicholson and Kennedy said their businesses haven't been this busy since the winter of 2015, when P.E.I. saw a record of 550 centimetres of snow by April.

"I don't even want to think of that one. I don't even know how I got through that one," Nicholson said. 

Winter going as expected, says province

Stephen Szwarc, director of highway maintenance with the Department of Transportation, said so far this year the province's budget for snow removal is on par with what it's seen in previous years, but with a couple more months of winter weather ahead that could change. 

"It's been interesting for sure, we've seen some pretty significant events the last little bit and looking forward to the winter it's looking like we're going to continue to see them," he said. 

Stephen Szwarc, director of highway maintenance for the province, says so far for the year, snow removal costs have been on budget. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

He said in recent years the province has seen much smaller storms and more freezing and thawing during winter months, which usually requires plows to go out more frequently. But this year, there are more significant snowfalls, which take longer to clean up. 

"Lots of hours, not just at the event but after the event. It's dealing with the snow at the time and then getting ready for the next event, so blowing back the snow and creating some capacity," he said. 

"It's been different than previous years … but the crews and contractors and our staff, they're really adapting well." 

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