FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John has officially exceeded November’s monthly average snowfall amount, and the month is only halfway done.
Since last Saturday, a total of 37.7 centimetres of the white stuff has fallen at the North Peace Airport weather station, bringing the total amount that has fallen since November 1st to 48.7 centimetres. The weather station saw 12.8 centimetres fall at the airport on Wednesday, in addition to the 11.8 cms that fell on Tuesday. On average, Fort St. John sees a total of 32.5 cms of snow during the month of November.
With Environment Canada calling for more snow and flurries in the next week, officials in both Fort St. John and Dawson Creek are continuing to make sure snow removal activities continue despite the escalating costs. Earlier this week, Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said that the City delayed hiring additional contractors to help with snow removal in order to maximize the impact the additional crews would have in helping to clear city streets.
Bumstead said that Dawson Creek’s Snow Removal Policy allows the city to hire contractors to help with snow removal if the forecast calls for more than 18 cms to fall in the 24 hour period. He explained that though close to 20 centimetres fell in Dawson Creek between Monday and Tuesday, the city didn’t hire additional help until Wednesday after another wave dropped more snow on the city.
“Administration’s instruction from Council under that policy is that they must have the city done within seven days,” said Bumstead. “Each time we hire all this additional equipment, we have to hire trucks to haul the snow out of downtown because we expect that to be cleared. It usually on average costs us between $100,000 and $120,000 to hire that additional equipment. Because we’ve been getting the accumulation over a period of days, we delayed hiring the equipment because we didn’t want to be doing clearing for eight or ten days.”
Fort St. John does not have a threshold for forecast accumulations to call in additional help in plowing city streets, as the city has nearly doubled its snow removal fleet in the past few years. However, General Manager of Integrated Services Victor Shopland said that staff will hire contractors to clear city-owned parking lots and that they also hire dump trucks when crews do snow haul-off operations.
Shopland said that each day of snow haul-off costs the city around $26,000, with haul-offs taking an average of two days. With this fall seeing higher than average snowfall amounts, Shopland said that so far the city has used roughly 70 percent of its $1.4 million snow removal budget this calendar year. However, he said that the city does have a $500,000 snow removal contingency fund.
The last time the city exceeded its snow removal budget was in 2013, though only by $29,000. 2014’s snow removal bill came in just $50,000 under budget, but in both 2015 and 2016 the snow removal bills came in well below budget.