It has now been more than a week since a massive winter storm hit Toronto but officials say that the biggest snow removal operation in the city’s history could still take several more days to complete.
General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray made the comment during a briefing at a snow storage site on Unwin Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, one of five currently in use.
She said that since the Jan. 17 storm, crews have hauled away about 6,100 loads of snow, weighing approximately 19,000 tonnes.
But with temperatures remaining well below freezing, Gray said that there has been little melting to help speed up a cleanup which is now in its second week.
“We are running the biggest snow operation in the city's history and we are responding to one of the biggest snowstorms we ever had, five times bigger than an average big snowstorm in the city,” Gray said. “Clearing this record snow will take some time but we are working around the clock with hundreds of staff and vehicles to collect and remove the snow so that we can restore our road network for everyday use.”
Gray said that crews have so far removed snow from about 270 kilometres of roadway with particular attention being paid to transit routes and school safety zones.
She said that operators with the city’s 311 call centre have also been busy fielding approximately 6,000 requests for service calls regarding snow removal since last week.
About 2,000 of those calls have been resolved so far, Gray said.
“It's always great when we have some warming temperatures after we have a big snowfall and I do really think that people in Toronto expect that so that is one of the reasons why snow operations can go a little bit faster in previous storms. But with this storm we’re having sub-zero temperatures,” she said of the unique situation Toronto is facing. “I look at the weather frequently and it (extreme cold) appears to be every day for the next two weeks. So most of this snow is going to have to be removed.”
Officials have previously said that the 55 centimetres of snow that fell on Toronto on Jan. 17 is more than the city typically sees during the entire month of January.
The city also received an additional seven to 10 centimetres of snow on Monday, further complicating the cleanup efforts.
The good news is that there is no snow in the forecast for the rest of the week, though the city does remain under an extreme cold weather alert with the wind chill expected to feel like -30 overnight and into Wednesday.
The alert has been in effect since Jan. 17.
“Hopefully Mother Nature keeps her promise,” Gray said on Tuesday.