Shawn Dahlen, deputy director of infrastructure and sustainable development, said the city has two graters, two loaders, two sand trucks and plow trucks that started operating early this morning and will continue late into the night. Environment Canada is predicting another five to 10 centimetres of snow to fall today on top of the snow that had already fallen starting yesterday evening.

As per city policy, crews will begin clearing some of the steeper hills around Dawson Creek for safety reasons, and then the public transit routes in order to keep the buses running. Areas in front of the hospital and schools will be cleared next, followed by the downtown area, and then residential streets. The city’s two major thoroughfares – Alaska Avenue and Eighth Street south of the traffic circle – are the responsibility of the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. A sanding and snowplowing priority map has been attached below.

Dahlen said they will be clearing the downtown area tonight in anticipation of the annual “Christmas Tree Light-Up” tomorrow at the Mile 0 Marker starting at 6 p.m.

Kevin Henderson, director of infrastructure and sustainable development, said residents in those lower-priority areas can expect it to take five to seven days to have their streets cleared.

“That’s only if it quits snowing,” added Dahlen, who said they may have to revisit higher-priority areas before they can get to some of those residential streets.

Heavy snowfalls during the latter months of last winter has put pressure on the budget for snow clearing heading into this winter. Henderson said they have already exceeded the portion of the budget set aside for contracting outside services to assist with snow removal for this calendar year, but there is still room in his department’s internal budget to continue operating the city’s own resources.

“The budget is near its max, but that’s what you run into,” he said. “You can’t know year-to-year what weather you’re going to have, so you just have to look at the trends, and some years you spend more and some you spend less.”

Dahlen added they have never operated with any contingency or surplus funding available.

Henderson said city council would have to decide if any additional funding is necessary for snow removal for the remainder of this calendar year.

As for sidewalks, he said the city’s parks and recreation department has a budget for clearing snow around major thoroughfares and common areas. Homeowners are responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of their homes, while business owners are required to keep their storefronts cleared.

Henderson said the first snowfall of the season is always the toughest because there is not yet sand or gravel laid on the streets, so he cautioned residents to be patient and take caution on city streets as they will likely be slippery over the next few days.

He added his department will be posting updates on snow clearing efforts throughout the winter on the City of Dawson Creek’s Facebook page.