B.C. councillors call for a snow summit to address response issues

B.C. councillors call for a snow summit to address response issues
B.C. councillors call for a snow summit to address response issues

Tuesday's snowstorm that battered B.C.'s South Coast was a major wake-up call for many communities ill-prepared to deal with it.

The storm that swept across in the late afternoon and evening stranded commuters in the Lower Mainland for hours, with some people stuck for over 12 hours in traffic. Several highways and roads were packed with rush-hour-volume traffic until past midnight. In fact, one Vancouver man spent five hours getting home after he hitchhiked in five different vehicles.

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Tim Singh's tale of having to go to such lengths in order to get to his destination was just one of many, signalling a significant problem that needs to be addressed soon, according to a Surrey, B.C., city councillor.

"Clearly, it's a huge, huge problem. We need to do a much better job in the future," said Coun. Linda Annis, in an interview with Jaclyn Whittal, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "Every major crossing over the Fraser River was out of commission."

The Alex Fraser Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel were just two of the problem areas during the snowstorm. It was reported that the province had 30 pieces of equipment working on the Lower Mainland roads Tuesday evening, but crews had come across numerous obstacles.

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Daniel Fontaine, a City of New Westminster councillor, told Whittal he was informed of many issues arising during the storm including a lack of tow trucks, snow plows and clearing equipment, worsened by the timing of the snow falling and when people left work.

As a result, Annis and Fontaine would like to gather all Lower Mainland municipalities, the B.C. government, transit operators and road maintenance contractors in a "snow summit" in order to work on the problem. An official response to the summit request has yet to be given, but the councillors are hopeful their needs will be met in the near future.

"We've had snow in Vancouver before, multiple times...but something happened this week that I think we need to investigate further," said Fontaine.

Annis offered some advice to rectify the challenges, suggesting municipalities get "more proactive" before heavy snowfall by salting areas prior to, and ensuring drivers have the proper tires on their vehicles and are prepared for winter driving.

With files from CBC News and Jaclyn Whittal, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

Follow Nathan Howes on Twitter.