Vancouver is bracing for flooded streets and commuter chaos today as temperatures rise and rain begins to fall.

The city is worried that the rain and snowmelt won’t drain if storm grates are clogged with snow and ice.

“We’re preparing for the worst,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said yesterday.

“There is so much snow piled up on the side streets, there’s the potential for it to be really challenging — particularly with everyone going back to work and school.”

Robertson said the 300 city workers will make sure storm drains are clear. Back-up staff are also available to help prevent “traffic chaos.”

Environment Canada is calling for a 60 per cent chance of precipitation today, with temperatures reaching as high as 7 C. More rain is expected tomorrow and Wednesday.

Vancouver’s side streets and alleys have been slick — and in some cases almost impassible — since about mid-December when heavy snows fell and stayed.

The snow hampered garbage collection and transit. It also made it difficult for many to get around, particularly seniors and people in wheelchairs.

The return to mild, if wet, winter weather couldn’t have come at a better time, Robertson said, adding that he was considering soliciting a “block-by-block citizen-based response” to help clear streets.

“There are certainly people who are going to make it through now that its thawing and get their lives back to normal.”

To the end of 2008, the city spent about $940,000 (almost $200,000 more than budgeted) clearing, salting and sanding main streets and hills.

The extra money was drawn from the city’s contingency reserve.

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