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Three record snowfalls in six days prompt city’s biggest snow-clearing effort since 2017 blizzard

Mayor blasts ‘whining’ about state of city streets, offers same-day service funded by 20 per cent tax increase

An unprecedented six-day stretch of early April snowfall in Thompson has led to the biggest snow-clearing effort since the blizzard of March 2017 and, with everyone's nerves already frayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, harsh words from the city’s mayor for citizens "whining" about the state of city roads.

Snow fell in Thompson four of the six days from April 2 to April 7, setting records on three of them. The 15.6 centimetres that fell last Thursday was the most since 6.8 cm of snow in 1995, while the 34.4 cm that fell on Friday beat the previous record of 6.4 cm from 1967 by 28 cm. Only 2.8 cm fell April 4, well below the 1973 record of 8.4 cm, while the 12.8 cm of snow on April 7 was close to double the previous record of 6.5 cm in 1981.

Cumulatively, 65.6 cm of snow fell between April 2 and April 7.

Friday’s snowfall in Thompson was higher than any day in April up to 2010. The previous highest one-day amount was 22.6 cm and the average snowfall for the entire month of April up to 2010 was 23 cm. 

As of April 7, there were 87 cm of snow on the ground in Thompson, the most there has been since 1967, the first year of Environment Canada historical records available online, when there was 84 cm. The normal amount of snow on the ground at the end of March is 45 cm, slightly more than half of what Thompson had yesterday. The most snow that has ever been on the ground in Thompson is 91 cm, in January and February 1968 and in April 1967.

An Environment Canada meteorologist said getting large amounts of snow in April is a little unusual but that having snow in April is not. This year’s massive dump is the result of low pressure systems over central and Northern Manitoba that have created variable weather and, at times, significant snowfall. More snow is also forecast for later this week.

The City of Thompson said in a website update April 7 that city crews worked 40 hours between Friday and Sunday and were scheduled to be working extended shifts again Tuesday night to ensure the snow is cleared as soon as possible. The effort included all of the city’s graders and loaders and all of its bobcats from both the public works and recreation departments, along with two plow trucks not normally used for snow clearing.

“This is the largest snow-clearing action our crews have undertaken since the blizzard of 2017,” said the update, noting that three years ago was the last time the plow trucks were pressed into action. As a result, while streets were getting cleared faster, the windrows left by the plow trucks could only be removed at the same rate as during normal snow-clearing because there are no additional loaders to complement the plow trucks.

“The only alternative is that these streets remained unplowed until graders reach them, which means vehicles will get stuck or damaged, including emergency vehicles,” said the city update. “Our firefighters and paramedics can respond to emergencies regardless of windrows, but they cannot respond to emergencies when their vehicle is stuck two kilometres away from the scene, or when the road is blocked by another resident’s vehicle. These snowfalls do not come every day in Thompson, and the must be dealt with step by step.”

Complaints about the pace of snow-clearing irked Mayor Colleen Smook, who took to Facebook Tuesday night to call out people unsatisfied with the progress of clearing city streets.

“Our Public Works crew has gone above and beyond,” Smook wrote. “Have we got every street done. NO. But with 2 major snowstorms four days apart and only so many bodies and even less equipment they are doing the best they can. When I heard all the whining and bitching that they got from the citizens of our great City I am appalled. If you want same day service with a 20% tax increase we will deliver.”

“I know if you bitch me out and it’s not pertinent you will soon make it to the bottom of my list. Instead a honk and a thumbs up to all City staff. STAY HOME. SELF DISTANCE. WASH YOUR HANDS,” Smook concluded.

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