When the first fluffy flakes fell before Christmas, New Westminster was postcard-pretty and everywhere I went I could hear people humming to themselves “… where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow … ”
Once Snowmageddon hit in full force, it wasn’t so cute anymore.
A local blogger, Daniel from CityCaucus.com, was one of many of us who felt frustrated by the two-foot snowdrifts that remained on side streets in the days following Snowmageddon 2008:
Admittedly, even by Canadian standards we did receive a lot of snow. However, does that excuse the fact that not a single street in my whole neighbourhood was plowed five days after the snow began to fall?
I’m beginning to think that the City of New Westminster (my hometown) doesn’t even own a plow. What else would explain how the act of a simple snowfall transformed our quaint streets into something reminiscent of an end-of-the-world Hollywood film?
For heavens sake, days after the storm, there were still cars abandoned everywhere. And I mean literally everywhere. Sidewalks were impassable while back alleys were complete no-go-zones unless you owned a Hummer or a snowmobile.
I did try to venture out of my back lane once, only to get stuck there for three hours before my neighbour got home and used his truck to set my car free. When I finally did make it out of the back lane, I realized I had damaged the undercarriage of my car due to all the snow left on the streets. Did I mention New Westminster doesn’t own a snowplow?
The streets were in such poor condition that I was even forced park my car about 5 blocks away in our neighbhourhood shopping district where one main drag was at least somewhat passable.
According to the Christmas Eve edition of the Record, New Westminster had already depleted its snow removal budget before the holiday:
In January 2008, the city spent one-quarter of its snow removal budget. By last week [Dec. 19 -ed.], the budget had been depleted.
“It was a little hectic Saturday night and Sunday. We just keep plowing,” said Sheldon Rigby, acting manager of engineering operations. “We spread a bit of salt. We hope the weather changes.”
Rigby estimated the weekend’s snowfall cost the city about $55,000, which includes staff time, supplies and equipment. On Sunday, crews were clearing main routes and making progress – only to have to plow again after being hit by another dump of snow.
Once the crews have cleared commuter and emergency routes, they move onto side streets. Six vehicles have been on the roads around the clock.
“We will get into areas and side streets as time permits,” Rigby assured residents.
As I commented on Daniel’s post, I found the reaction to the first snowfall timely and appropriate, but when the real dump came our streets were also unplowed for days. We were nearly without water over Christmas (with 15 dinner guests expected!) due to a burst pipe in the basement suite – and a plumber who couldn’t get his truck down our snowy road! Later in the holiday, one of our co-authors (Jocelyn) slipped on the unshoveled street in front of the Starbucks on Columbia street and found herself flat on her back with her wheels in the air!
Despite these misadventures, we actually felt lucky that the snowfall happened over Christmas. We had nowhere pressing to go once Christmas shopping was complete, and so we remained happily housebound save for a few jaunts over to Grimston Park to take the toddler sledding.