Winter came in like a lion, this year, in some ways. The snowy season didn’t have the usual handful of small events to brace the ground and the drivers. Instead it was a sudden dump that didn’t melt away. Add in a couple of windstorms and prolonged cold snaps.
Drivers have to contend with these conditions, but Lakes District Maintenance (LDM) has to roll up their sleeves and deal daily with what the atmosphere throws at our region. Despite the obvious challenges, the underlying factors have been favourable, said LDM’s general manager Mike Philip.
“Overall things have gone well,” he said. Autumn gave the region “a slower/later start to winter than normal as well as less snow than average years. The lack of snow has reduced plowing efforts however the milder temps, [up until this week…definitely not mild right now]do create more icing conditions which require increased use of de-icers and winter abrasives. We have seen more wind than normal which has created drifting and downed trees in areas that normally don’t experience these issues.”
Grading has gone well, because the lack of snow means less frequency of the machines out on the roadways, but also less buildup of snow into layers and lumps.
Going easy on machinery is important this year because, explained Philip, the whole world has been experiencing shortages and slowdowns for goods and services, like machines and their parts.
“Winter of 2021 was challenging as far as procuring equipment so knowing we may run into similar issues in 2022 we ordered equipment much earlier than normal and in turn had everything in place for this fall/winter. Some parts are still hard to come by but overall, things are better than winter last year,” he said.
As with grading, sanding has been less intense this year. But it has to be done on a regular basis, especially what Philip calls “the usual suspects: hills, corners, shaded areas as well as roads near open water and/or the local mills,” where condensation can create slippery sections on adjacent road surfaces. It’s just a year that so far has needed less frequency.
That can change at any time. The deep freeze that ushered in the holiday season is proof of that. Some local parents of post-secondary students and those hosting incoming relatives had to add days onto airport pickup trips, because flights weren’t getting into the north and those loved ones were stuck in southern airports. Those sorts of temperature and precipitation twists amplify the need for highway maintenance, and underscore the high stakes of winter driving. LDM is the frontline response team to long-term climate but most importantly the short-term weather.
“We have plow trucks equipped with sand hoppers, underbody as well as front plows, multiple wing trucks, graders and loaders for our snow removal and winter abrasive applications,” Philip listed. “We also have anti-icing trucks used for spraying salt brine for pre-treating roads prior to forecasted snowfall, this helps to lessen the bond snow has to the road surface and helps to more easily remove compact snow after a winter event.”
LDM’s coverage area encompasses a landmass about a quarter of the province. Not only do they cover the Houston-Granisle-Burns Lake-Southside regions in our immediate area, they are also the maintenance contractor for a massive chunk of the BC northwest, including communities like Atlin, Telegraph Creek, Dease Lake, Bob Quinn and more. Weather effects in these places can be intense, even compared to our locale.
As much as road maintenance companies have a responsibility to public safety, the public also has a burden of responsibility to assess travel conditions and proceed accordingly. Philip’s intimate knowledge of local roads led to some suggestions.
“Make sure to have good snow tires, winter emergency kits, communications devices, cell phone or satellite messengers such as InReach, Zoleo or Spot devices for areas with limited cellular coverage,” he said. “Another item people tend to overlook is having a full tank of fuel before heading out. Especially in the winter it’s important to do this in case you get stranded, stopped at an accident scene or avalanche area. Sometimes road closures can be hours long and extra fuel is important for warmth and/or having to turn around and head back home.”
Check DriveBC before heading out so you know the current road conditions and if there are any closures along the route you are taking.
If drivers spot issues along the roads in LDM’s areas, they can call the company’s 24/7 information line at 1-888-255-8055.