Backgrounder: Transportation Services – Response to April Ice Storm
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April 15, 2018
Current weather conditions
Snow and ice pellet combined accumulation as of April 15, 9 a.m.:
Toronto and East York: 2 to 3 cm
Etobicoke and York: 3.5 cm
North York: 4 to 5 cm
Scarborough: 3 to 4 cm
Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the city of Toronto. Rain is expected to be heavy at times tonight with amounts likely in the 20 to 25 mm range. Total rainfall amounts for Sunday night into Monday may be in the 25 to 35 mm range. Temperatures are expected to rise to plus 5 degrees Celsius by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Crews from Transportation Services have been working 24/7 to salt roads in priority sequence: expressways, arterials, collectors, etc. Salting of some bridges, steep hills, bus stops and protected bike lanes is also underway.
Sidewalk salters are working in high priority areas and to clear sidewalks along key arterial roads. In addition, there are numerous ‘handcrews’ working to salt steps, bridges, walkways, bus stops, and intersections throughout the city.
Plowing is being carried out strategically and is currently focused on expressways. Main arterial roads that have a significant accumulation of slush are a priority and must be cleared. Crews are checking and clearing catch basins as they plow these roads.
A strategic decision not to plow other roads will ensure catch basins are not blocked when the snow melts and heavy rains occur throughout the city. This will ensure catch basins remain clear and facilitate the unobstructed flow of water to help reduce flooding.
Crews are continuing to work with partners to monitor weather and coordinate the strategic response to rapidly changing conditions. Currently, staff are transitioning to flood patrol and response now that temperatures are beginning to rise and rain is imminent.
Number of vehicles in-use
There are currently 80 salt trucks available and being utilized in response to this weekend’s ice storm. This includes a combination of in-house and contracted vehicles.
Associated contracts have been extended until April 19. Approximately 30 of these vehicles are also equipped with plows for snow removal.
In a typical year, by April 1 ground conditions are warming and the air temperatures are generally above freezing. At this point, contracted plows and half of the contracted salt trucks are usually no longer in service.
Depending on conditions, from early to mid-April, the remaining salt trucks are generally no longer required and removed from service.
This year, due to the forecast contractors were asked to hold back any vehicles that had not been removed to facilitate effective response to this event.
2015 to 2022 winter depot contracts which run from October 15 to April 15, include an extra week at either end of the winter season over the previous contract (2008-2014). As a result, current winter depot contracts start one week earlier and end one week later. This was a change that was incorporated into contracts in response to climate change.
Council-approved service levels:
Findings from June 2013 road climatology study:
- Based on a 2cm snowfall, the average last day of typical winter season is approximately March 25 to 29
- Only 1.3% to 1.6% of days in a calendar year will include freezing rain (freezing rain is most common in January)
- Decreasing trend for freezing rain from 1987 to 2013
- 1987 to 2013 – four freezing rain events recorded at Pearson during April 8 to 14
- No freezing rain events recorded at Pearson post April 14.
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