A week after a major winter storm pummeled Toronto, snow clearing efforts continue, even as Mother Nature sends a top-up.
“This is an all hands on deck and very coordinated operation,” General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray told reporters Monday. “This is the most amount of snow that we've had in quite, quite some time.”
It was a week ago today that a massive 55 cm snowfall brought Toronto to a standstill, stranding hundreds of transit buses and delaying a return to in-person learning at schools.
City crews have been working hard to dig out, but with temperatures that have remained steadily below zero, there has been little opportunity for the massive snowfall to naturally melt away.
“Just to paint a picture for you, the snow we received in just 15 hours last Monday was more than all the snow we received each January for nearly the past two decades,” Gray said.
She said it was also more than the combined total from January, February and March last year.
“Any normal large snow event dumps about 10 centimeters of snow, and the snowstorm last Monday was five times that amount. So I'm just telling you that to give you the scale of this operation that we're dealing with,” Gray said.
“This record amount of snow is of course married up with sub-zero temperatures, which means that Mother Nature is not giving us a hand in terms of melting and so it requires us to keep vigilant in terms of our removals.”
Gray’s update came as snow continued to fall across the city.
Toronto and many parts of southern Ontario currently sit under a winter weather travel advisory.
Toronto is expected to see snowfall amounts of five to 10 centimeters by Monday night and Environment Canada is warning that there could be reduced visibility on the roads due to occasional snow and blowing snow.
“Southwesterly winds over Lake Ontario are expected to enhance snowfall rates, especially for areas closer to the lake shore,” the agency said. “Travel may be hazardous due to sudden changes in the weather. Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. If visibility is reduced while driving, turn on your lights and maintain a safe following distance.”
Temperatures are also expected to remain chilly for the next few days. Overnight the temperature is expected to feel like -13 with the wind chill. On Tuesday a high of -6 C is expected.
“As you see it's snowing right now and so we have also activated our normal snow operations,” Gray said. “We are dealing with salting right now, we're doing some sidewalk plowing and we are accomplishing that as well as continuing to do removals in various parts of the city.”
Speaking alongside Gray, Vince Sferrazza, director of operations and maintenance at Transportation Services, said crews have been working around the clock since the storm struck last week.
“We've been at this 24/7 since last Monday – over a week – and we have over 1,100 pieces of equipment. That would include salters for roads, plows for roads, and sidewalk machines. So literally it is an army of equipment,” Sferrazza said. “In addition to that, we have close to 1,500 contractor staff and transportation staff on this and it has been a situation where they've been all committed to help out.”
While the city had warned that it would give “friendly tows” to vehicles blocking snow routes, Gray said that has largely been unnecessary as people have taken care not to park their vehicles where it might block clearing equipment.
In an update to Toronto City Manager Chris Murray, Gray noted that the city has already removed 17,346 tonnes of snow and dumped 5,782 loads of snow from across the city at storage sites.
She said that work is expected to continue over the next dew days.