Snow removal

After a major snowfall like we had last week, snow plugs up the streets and seriously interferes with the day-to-day activities of the city. The municipality springs dramatically into action to remove the snow as quickly as possible.

First, the city notifies people not to park at the side of the road. Bleccch!, snow at the side of a busy road gets filthy in a hurry!

You may never have seen one of these before:  it’s a sidewalk plow. People are expected to clear the snow from in front of their houses, but the municipality helps out for the sake of public safety.

Another view of the sidewalk plow. Isn’t it cute?! I’ve always thought it would be a great job, to be the driver of such a machine.

This is a snow plow of a different magnitude. Nothing cute about this monster!

Eventually the two plows create a line of snow a foot or two away from the curb.

Now that the snow is in a nice, neat line, the snow-throwing machine comes along. (I have no idea what the machine is really called.) Note the gaping maw, which contains two screw-like thingies that turn in opposite directions to pull in the snow. (I hope I’m not overwhelming you with too much technical jargon.)

Here’s a better look at the snow thrower in action, filling a truck to overflowing.

It takes a whole convoy of trucks to cart the snow away. When I took this photo, there was one truck beside the snow-throwing machine, and six more lined up behind it. They will transport the snow to a kind of dump.

The city of Toronto became the butt of a lot of jokes in 1999, when they had to call in the Canadian army to clear away their snow. Toronto is the city Canadians love to hate; this was too juicy an opportunity for people to pass it up.

But all the mockery was a bit of a cheap shot. This writer reports, “In 158 years of record-keeping, there’s only been 41 times when Toronto was hit with more than 25 cm of snow in a 24-hour period.”

On the east coast, they get a snowfall like that about twice a month, as near as I can figure. So Halifax is always prepared for it (sort of); and Toronto isn’t.

Since Toronto is Canada’s most important economic center, that much snow can have a real impact on the economy.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lynne
    Dec 19, 2005 @ 20:14:00

    Ah, brings me make to my years living in New England.
    Where I live now we get only a small amount of snow in the city.
    We are more prone to ice storms and they really suck.


  2. Jack's Shack
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 00:50:00

    Totally foreign to me. I never lived anywhere with snow. I have seen it many times in places like Buffalo, Toronto and Chicago, but never did live in it.


  3. The Misanthrope
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 08:08:00

    Yikes! You’re scaring me. I will have to dig up pictures of the ’94 earthquake, why you will then understand why I run for cover when I hear an 18-wheeler driving by or no longer eat jello.


  4. Bill
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 09:42:00

    And after they haul it all away they dump it on a city lot near the transitway just before Tunneys where it sits as a large black pile and melts away just before the end of May. Yes black, as all the snow melts the city dirt floats on the top to form a black crust that insulates the pile. It looks like a coal pile. The pile looks about 70 feet high and well over 150 feet long, and that is only one of many dump-sites. Apparently they used to dump it in the river until someone complained that this was not environmentally friendly.


  5. LoryKC
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 10:00:00

    (We only have little snowplows and a truck that sprinkles sand/salt. No snow-throwers here!)


  6. 49erDweet
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 10:49:00

    Q is close on nomenclature. The “snow thrower” is called a “snow blower” in the lower 48. It is capable of gobbling up and projecting a steady stream of snow thirty to fifty feet or so to the side of the road, if desired, or merely a few feet into the trailer dump beds, as shown.

    The “differant magnitude” snow plow is actually a highway construction motor grader with an extra side-blade attachment. The bottom blade must be closely watched, as it can easily dig out huge chunks of frozen pavement if set too low. Here in the mountains of Cali many of these machines also have a front V-Blade attachment that during the first pass moves fresh fallen snow aside, creating a driving lane.. In the High Sierra, the side blades on motor graders are very important. They are used to “dress the sidewalls” made up of compacted blown snow set aside from previous storms, which sometimes tower 15 to 20 feet or more above the roadway – which makes it somewhat akin to driving through a “snow canyon”.

    The sidewalk plow – because it is smallish – presents a pretty choppy ride, but being an ‘articulated’ machine (bends in the middle), is able to be more manueverable and useful in situations such as those shown.

    Good photos, Q, and a great explanation of the process the moderne city of Ottawa uses to combat the ancient curse of northern cities; dirty, unwanted and excessive weather residue.


  7. Q
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 11:17:00

    • Lynne:
    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    We had an ice storm in 1998 that led to several deaths, and some parts of Quebec were without power for weeks. Give me a good snow storm rather than an ice storm any day!

    • Misanthrope:
    I’d take a snow storm over an earthquake every time, too. In fact “extreme weather” of this sort is a lot of fun, even if it’s also inconvenient.

    • Jack:
    I was pretty sure this would be new to some of you southern readers — and presumably my British readers, too.

    • Bill:
    Thanks for the additional info. It’s true, a melting pile of snow is a disgusting sight!

    • Lory:
    Thanks for that “oooooo”! Men find it gratifying when women are impressed by their heavy equipment.

    • 49er:
    I never thought of you dealing with snow in California, but if you live in the mountains, it makes sense.

    Thanks for filling in the details. I enjoyed your explanation. If I’d known, I might have asked you to write the post with me.

    People have snow “blowers” here, but they are just little hand-operated units. Homeowners have them in order to clear their driveways. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to use the same term for the machines in the photograph.

    As for “snow canyons”, in a bad winter our driveways get like that.


  8. Mrs.Aginoth
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 11:47:00

    Cool – you truck your snow away? that’s just great. Hilarious somehow, but great!

    I don’t think England has any snow plows, though Scotland must own a couple. we had 4inches a few weeks ago & we just closed all the main roads! People were being “rescued” from their stranded vehicles on the A30.

    It would be undestandable if snow was a freak weather event here, but we get soem pretty much every year!

    When I was living in Israel, a bunch of guys took a pick-up to the moutains & brought some snow back for the kids to see it:-)


  9. Sadie Lou
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 15:04:00

    Those pictures are awesome! I love that little sidewalk snow plow. I used to live on the side of a rural highway and when the snow plow came, it pushed a 4 foot bank of snow right at the top of our driveway. My poor hubby would have to carve a car-sized path into the bank so we could get in and out.


  10. Mary P.
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 17:42:00

    They did our street this afternoon, to the extreme delight of my urchins, so if you’ll excuse me, I just have to go wipe the nose-prints off my front window now.


  11. Janet
    Dec 20, 2005 @ 21:25:00

    So much to say about snow, so little time.:)


  12. Q
    Dec 21, 2005 @ 09:18:00

    • Mrs. Aginoth:
    I was in Tennessee in January once, and it snowed there. I don’t know how often they get snow, but a mere dusting was enough to throw the city into chaos.

    To be fair, the same sort of thing happens even in Canada. It takes only a very small amount of snow to make the roads slick. Every year, the first time it happens, people forget that they have to change the way they drive. Thus, every year, the first snow fall results in lots of accidents.

    • Sadie Lou:
    Four feet! There’s nothing worse than the snow placed at the end of your driveway by a plow.

    For those who don’t know, snow plow snow is wet and compacted. It’s heavy to lift and throw; and once it begins to freeze, it’s hard even to get your shovel into it.

    • Mary P.:
    Oh, so that explains the noseprints! I thought it was a Christmas craft.

    • Janet:
    “So much to say about snow”, indeed! As you might imagine, Canadians spend a lot of time talking about the weather.

    But it’s not the only subject I blog about … I promise!


  13. Jack's Shack
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 03:06:00

    I suppose that if I had to I could used to living in snow, but it just doesn’t seem all that inviting to me.

    I am a sunshine and blue skies kind of guy.


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