Winter wallop makes roads a March mess



James MacLennan/for metro ottawa


Rush hour commuters scale a mound of snow to board an OC Transpo bus on Slater Street yesterday. The city reported that buses got stuck in spots across Ottawa, delaying commute times up to 15 minutes.

Another snowy day in what could be shaping up as Ottawa’s snowiest winter ever slowed commuters yesterday, including city buses that got stuck.

"We had reports of 40-foot buses, enviro buses and articulated buses (stuck in snow)," City of Ottawa spokesman Eric Collard said. "Delays were looking at 10 to 15 minutes this morning."

An OC Transpo driver whose articulated bus was stuck at Kent and Somerset streets for over an hour said he could only sit and wait for assistance once the vehicle got stuck.

"Earlier, there were five buses stuck here," said the driver, who declined to be named.

The city’s articulated buses often struggle in snow. On Dec. 16, 2005, more than 100 of the city’s buses got stuck during a snowstorm. Of those, 80 rear-wheel-drive articulated buses had jackknifed in the snow.

The winter storm that blasted the capital yesterday dumped up to 35 centimetres, pushing Ottawa closer to its all-time winter snowfall record of 444.1 cm, set in 1970-1971.

"This is definitely a good dumping of snow," said Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Geoff Coulson. "It rivals some of the dumpings of snow we’ve had this year."

On Dec. 16, Ottawa received 35 cm of snow, and on Feb. 1, 27 cm fell. Coulson said some parts of Ottawa got 35 cm yesterday and accumulation didn’t let up until 3 p.m.

With 358 cm of snow so far this winter, 2007-08 is already Ottawa’s second snowiest on record. A weather system moving in from the Gulf of Mexico Friday "could be another significant snow producer for Ottawa," Coulson said, adding that the record could yet be broken.

"A few weeks ago, I would have said it wasn’t very likely, but all bets are off at this point."

Ottawa’s full complement of snow-removal equipment — 500 pieces, in addition to 555 staff — were out just after midnight and are expected to continue through Thursday.

Gatineau’s snow removal services hit the streets Tuesday night, and are expected to continue working for up to 16 hours after the storm ends, a press release from the city stated.

At the Ottawa Airport, more than 30 incoming flights were cancelled, mostly in the morning, said spokesperson Krista Kealey.

"We’re operating like it’s just another snowstorm," she said. "We’ve had enough practice this winter."

budgeting for more

  • Late snowstorms last year pushed the city $5.2 million over its $62 million snow removal budget. For 2008, the snow removal budget is $65 million.