The Week — Jan. 10: Extreme weather: protocol

Extreme weather protocol: Know the road before you go, and grab a warm bed in the cold

The City of Victoria wants everyone to remember we all have a role to play in keeping sidewalks safe this winter.

Extreme weather: protocol

If the weather so far is any indication, the city’s cautionary tale to plan for snow and ice should be well heeded.

The City of Victoria’s anti-icing truck was out as early as Dec. 10 this season, applying layers of “brine” (salt and water) on hills, bridges and major Victoria roads. When snow starts falling, crews clear “first priority” sidewalks, which include downtown transit stops and wheelchair ramps, and sidewalks fronting city properties downtown. Yet the city’s message this year is “get prepared” — for the City of Gardens, the white stuff requires team work to keep streets and sidewalks safe.

In an effort to stay prepared, the city recommends that Victoria businesses and households should stock up this year on shovels, sand and environmentally sensitive ice melt products to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways — rock salt is harmful to concrete sidewalks, pets’ paws and the environment.

Now is also the time to refresh an emergency kit with a working flashlight, radio, new batteries, candles and matches, and to have plenty of food, essential medicine and extra blankets on hand. The City’s “Recipes for Disaster” list the supplies residents and businesses need to cope for a minimum of three days in the event of a heavy snowfall or power outage (find all the recipes at PrepareVictoria.ca).

Residents and businesses are also reminded that, under the streets and traffic bylaw, snow and ice must be cleared from sidewalks in front of their property by 10am each day. Victoria residents are encouraged to make arrangements with neighbours in advance to clear each other’s sidewalks in the event they are away from home or work when it snows. Remember also the elderly or disabled, who will appreciate the assistance with snow removal.

Those who do not comply with the bylaw may face a fine of $150 per ticketed offence (per day) and a ticket can be issued up to six months after an offence has occurred. David Myles, manager of Wastewater and Underground Utilities, says that with over 450 kilometres of sidewalks in Victoria, it would be too costly for city taxpayers to have the city take on the entire task of removing ice and snow.

Know the road before you go

Forget the maps and the mochas, your newest travel buddy is compliments of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

A new “Plan Your Route” feature has been added to the government’s travel conditions website, DriveBC.ca, which offers information along your chosen route. DriveBC features route-specific weather forecasts and access to over 250 highway webcams strategically placed around the province so that motorists can see real-time highway conditions. Users can now also register for text messages and emails to receive up-to-date reports.

“Preparation and planning can go a long way to avoid the inconvenience and risks associated with winter driving,” says Mary Polak, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Drivers need to protect their families, passengers and others by being prepared. The first step on everyone’s journey should be a visit to DriveBC and our webcams.”

A warm bed in the cold

Just in time for the most threatening of winter seasons, it’s good to remember that the province has enlisted more extreme-weather shelter spaces than ever before across Greater Victoria.

As of December, an additional 145 emergency shelter spaces in the city were made available to help those in need of temporary shelter. The overnight spaces offer a warm place to stay during extreme winter weather conditions, and can be accessed until March 31 when a winter weather alert is activated. Each community decides when to issue an extreme weather alert and how many spaces should be made available on a given night.

“This is a true community effort. Our government provides the funds to open these additional emergency spaces during the cold winter months, and organizations and volunteers donate the facilities and their time,” says Ida Chong, minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “I want to thank all those involved for their continued commitment and to helping make sure that those in need have a meal and a warm, safe place to stay.”

Extra Victoria locations include the following: Our Place Society (919 Pandora/50 spaces), The Salvation Army (525 Johnson/30 spaces), Victoria Native Friendship Centre (231 Regina/25 spaces) and St. John the Divine (1611 Quadra/40 spaces). These additional spaces supplement more than 140 permanent year-round shelter beds in Victoria. Throughout B.C., the province is also providing $1.3 million to make more than 1,200 extreme weather spaces available in approximately 70 communities.

A full list of shelter spaces is available at: bchousing.org/programs/ESP/shelter_list. M

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