Posted by: Andrew | January 26, 2010

Hey, it snowed in Saskatoon!

Over the weekend we had a lot of snow, about 25 cm according to the local newspaper. It was also windy, so it drifted a lot too. On Sunday, we shovelled the driveway. The wind had blown so that there was no snow near the garage door, but then a sharp rise in depth towards the middle of the drive, and tapering off again towards the road. We cleared up the drive and the sidewalk (as required by local by-laws).  A Bobcat with a plough came down the road, which runs between two schools, leaving a single clear track in the road. We decided that the amount of snow meant that we would not try to go out to work or school on Monday morning. Good Call.

On Monday morning the wind had blown more snow into the road.  I spent half the morning either pushing cars out of the snow, directing traffic or doing more shovelling from under car wheels. School buses weren’t running, but many people still tried to drop children off at school, and didn’t realise that most cars didn’t have enough ground clearance to get over the snow.

I ought to explain to readers from other parts of Canada and elsewhere, that Saskatoon has one of the least effective snow clearing operations in the country. Over Christmas we were smiling at the lack of effective response in the UK to the heavy snowfalls there. It seems that here in Saskatoon, we are equally unprepared for a 25 cm dump of snow. The latest information I have (as of 8 pm in the evening on Monday), is that the priority one routes (major highways) have been ploughed, and priority two routes (bus routes) will be ploughed by Wednesday (Wednesday!). Residential streets don’t even come on the priority list…
Contrast this with the stated service levels in the city of Ottawa (hometown of Light of My Life): major routes ploughed as soon as snow starts, and even residential streets should be ploughed within 16 hours of the end of the snowfall. On our street, we are lucky to see a snowplough once a year.

The usual justification for this sorry state of affairs is that “Saskatoon has one of the lowest levels of municipal taxes in the nation“. It certainly shows. I would be willing to pay a bit more for a good snow clearance programme. At some point, the economic cost of essentially closing the city down for a day or two is going to become so high that an improved (and more costly) programme will be necessary.

Fortunately, we are planning to move to Ottawa in the summer, so next winter we will get better snow clearance services and pay for them willingly.

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