The snow is still falling lightly in Quesnel, and drivers are being warned about conditions as snowfall is expected until the early hours of Dec. 29.
“Our forecasters said there would be four to six inches, and we are pushing eight to 10 in most areas now,” commented John Andrushko, Emcon Services’ division manager.
Andrushko said there are currently 28 plow trucks out in the North Cariboo region. His division has yards in Quesnel, McLeese Lake, Wells and Hixon, and covers an area from about 30 kilometres south of McLeese Lake to 30 kilometres north of Hixon, out to Bowron Lake in the east and out to Nazko and Batnuni in the west.
Andrushko said Emcon, which holds the highway maintenance contract from B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, brought in extra drivers for today, after monitoring the forecast closely over the last few days.
“We ramped up and brought in additional employees to all the yards for tonight. The mechanics are all in and are on call at night time so if there are any issues, they come in right away. The shifts are between eight hours and 9.5 hours, but the employees are great – their families drive these roads too and they take pride in it, so they all stay for 12 hour shifts and it’s seamless, the trucks are out all the time,” said Andrushko.
Environment Canada is calling for 15 to 25 Cm. of snow Friday. Extra crew have been called in for the forecast.
Please be prepared. Turn your lights on and be seen!
— Emcon Quesnel (@EmconQuesnel) December 28, 2018
Emcon plows and grades all highways and side roads in the region, apart from areas in the City of Quesnel. They do plow Front Street, Carson Avenue, Legion Drive and the sani-dump loop within the city.
With snow still falling, Andrushko said it’s a matter of trying to keep up.
“We are putting a lot of emphasis on the highways – Highway 97, the Nazko Highway, Bouchie Lake Hill, Highway 26 out to Wells – because there are a lot of people travelling, especially Highway 97 from the Christmas holidays,” he said.
“There was a highway closure down in Williams Lake and they’ve opened that up so there will be quite an influx of northbound traffic, so we are putting a lot of emphasis on 97, trying to make it good. People seem to get antsy after they’ve been sitting for a couple of hours and try to pass the semis where they shouldn’t, and that’s where worse accidents happen,” he explained.
Once the snow stops, Emcon must have all roads plowed within 48 hours, as stipulated by their contract, but Andrushko said they can get it all done within 35 hours. He said since the snowfall began to slow around 2 p.m., some plows have already begun turning off the highways to clear main routes into subdivisions.
But Andrushko said his forecasters, who work 24/7 providing updates to his drivers, predict there will be freezing rain starting sometime in the morning. It could mean they choose not to plow some of the side roads: “You are better off to leave as much snow as possible on the smaller side roads when you having freezing rain coming in, because the rain will be absorbed by the snow and you will have better traction. Once everything is plowed and you have a cold service and thin compact, as soon as it rains, everything is slippery all at once.
“We are having to make a judgment call,” said Andrushko.
Andrushko said he currently has three graders out on the roads, and once the snow – and potentially rain – stops, all the plows plus the full fleet of nine graders will be out until the roads are clear.
In addition to plowing and grading the roads, Emcon must also keep rest areas, scales and runaway lanes open and clear, and attend incidents that happen on the roads.
The Observer has contacted the City of Quesnel Public Works division to find out about their snow removal efforts, but has so far not received a response.