More snow on the way as Vancouver deals with winter woes over ice, salt, response times

Brandon Ma fills a bucket with sand and salt on Thursday from the pile at Vancouver Fire Department’s Hall No. 7 at 1090 Haro St. Gerry Kahrmann / Postmedia News

Vancouver is assuring residents that staff have salted away enough supplies to make it through a weekend of snow, after a second day of mobbed road salt giveaways.

But the city’s NPA councillors are still calling for an independent inquiry into Vancouver’s response to this winter’s weather after weeks of complaints about icy sidewalks and snowy side roads.

“I think Vision and the mayor are in denial that it snows in Vancouver,” Coun. George Affleck said.

He wants the inquiry to examine such things as stockpiling supplies, staffing and the timing of heavy snowfalls in Vancouver — the last three have all taken place around the Christmas holidays.

Mayor Gregor Robertson issued a statement Thursday saying he understands the frustrations of many residents this winter, but noted staff “are working 24/7″ to clear ice and snow.

“Over the last two days, we’ve made progress with putting down a mixture of sand and salt on priority side streets to maintain access to more than 100 hospitals, schools and community centres,” the mayor said Thursday.

The statement also countered rumours that the city has run out of road salt, and said that new shipments are coming in regularly. Over the last two days, the city has given away about 80 tonnes of salt and sand at 10 fire halls — events that have attracted huge lineups.

Police had to be called in twice Wednesday to break up fights outside the fire halls, but Thursday’s giveaways went “a little bit smoother,” according to Vancouver Fire and Rescue spokesman Capt. Jonathan Gormick. Still, video from Global TV showed a lineup dissolving into a free-for-all at Fire Hall 17 on Knight Street.

“The one at 17 was gone in just over three minutes,” Gormick said.

The salt and sand handouts will continue until the weather changes, retailers get more stock or someone gets hurt during a salt-related melee.

The next week’s weather scenario looks like more of the same, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald. More snow was expected to fall across Metro Vancouver starting late Thursday, continuing steadily into Friday, for a total of seven to 10 centimetres. The white stuff will start falling again Sunday, mixed with rain throughout the day. The Fraser Valley could see treacherous conditions because of freezing rain.

With highs only expected to hit 2 C next week, MacDonald is cautioning local residents to be prepared.

“Perhaps some Vancouverites, because of historical experience, they’re trying to wait out this snow,” he said. But, “It’s sticking around for quite some time, so if you haven’t bought snow tires, you haven’t bought a shovel or sturdy winter footwear, I’d highly suggest it.”

The city is also reminding residents that salt is not a replacement for proper snow removal, recommending people get out the snow shovels before it melts into an ice crust.

But there are some upsides to the cold weather — it means that Trout Lake has been opened for skating for the first time in 20 years. According to the Vancouver park board, there was a solid 12 cm of ice on the lake this week. All other public ponds remain closed.

Read more about this from the source.

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