With dozens of collisions around the city Tuesday, officials with the City of Saskatoon took time to explain their response to this week’s icy roads.
On Thursday Jan. 21, director of public works Pat Hyde, said work was done in line with the city’s snow and ice plan for this winter, which was released in November 2015.
Hyde said Tuesday’s icy roads were a result of cold temperatures and high winds interacting with moisture from about four centimetres of light, fluffy snow that began falling Monday.
“You have to keep in mind that what happened on Tuesday morning and throughout the day Tuesday was a temporary condition. The conditions were quite different 24 hours prior to that, and they were much different 24 hours after that. We are out in force addressing those situations and conditions when they change. We can’t be everywhere at once but we are addressing it and we have a plan that we do follow,” Hyde said.
The city plan sets standards for the priority road network — city streets are assigned a priority based on their classification, average annual daily traffic, whether or not they are on a bus route and whether they provide access to vital points such as fire stations, police headquarters, schools and ambulance depots.
Priority one streets, including Circle Drive, are supposed to get patrolled by sanders every two hours during and immediately following a snowstorm. Priority two streets, including Main Street and 11th Street West, are supposed to see sanders every four hours. Priority three roads like Spadina Crescent or 16th Street are supposed to be checked every eight hours.
Hyde said all those targets were met in response to this week’s snow, despite breakdowns in some of the city’s equipment.
Hyde said at one before the snowfall, as many as 10 of 19 sanders went down. He said breakdowns are often due to hydraulics failing in the cold. But he said during and after the snowstorm, there was a minimum of 12 machines working at all times. He said that number came up to 17 by mid-day Tuesday. Hyde added that the number of breakdowns was in line with what they expect when temperatures get into the -30 C range.
Hyde said it’s important for drivers to slow down in response to winter conditions, and he warned that a chemical added to the sand and salt spread on Circle Drive can take several hours to work. While that’s happening, Hyde said black ice can form. He added that any move to increasing levels of service or adding more equipment would have to be addressed in the city’s budget.
The city is again warning drivers to be cautious. With temperatures set to climb above freezing on Friday before coming back below 0 C, Hyde said the roads are likely to get slippery.