Extreme weather events driving up costs for municipalities in B.C.
Bragging rights be gone. It’s becoming harder to gloat to the rest of Canada that here on the West Coast, we don’t have a real winter.
“I do think this is the new normal,” said Francine Downie, a Colwood resident. “We’re seeing more and more every winter.”
“It looks like we’re just getting snow like everybody else,” said Jim Legacy, also from Colwood.
Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada says what we are seeing is a higher frequency, intensity and duration in recent extreme weather events.
“Definitely we’ve had some months that have doubled and sometimes even tripled the climatic average of 1981 through 2010,” said Castellan.
Those stronger, more intense storms are forcing municipalities to rethink resources and add to them.
“As we move through more extreme weather, we’ll definitely have to expand our equipment and not only our equipment but staffing,” said John Russell, deputy director of public works for the City of Colwood.
The city just bought a new, one-tonne plow and is looking to purchase a snowblower for its bobcat.
“We’ve seen an increase in costs with the extreme weather,” said Russell.
Neighbouring Langford recently purchased a sidewalk clearing machine.
“With the one sidewalk machine that Langford has, we can do 23 kilometres a shift,” said Michelle Mahovlich, director of engineering and public works for the city of Langford. “That’s a 12 hour shift. We’re running it two shifts right now, so 24/7.”
Langford contracts out its snow removal to Victoria Contracting. Mahovlich says every year they meet to see if there is a need to add any new resources.
“We may want to take a look historically over the last three to five years and see if there’s any improvements we can do,” said Mahovlich.
The island’s largest municipality, Saanich, has ordered two new half-tonne plow trucks. They are on their way, but supply chain issues have stalled their arrival.
“Certainly, we’ve been noticing a trend with more extreme weather events,” said Harley Machielse, director of engineering with the district.
For now, Saanich is focussing on how its existing resources can be better utilized and if any efficiencies can be found. With a higher frequency of more intense storms becoming the norm, nobody is ruling out the need for additional resources.
“Certainly, if it becomes more of a trend, it’s a conversation that we’ll be having with our council to see how we increase the budget and whether new assets will be needed,” said Machielse.