Major snowfall causes travel chaos in capital region





Pedestrians walk along a nearly deserted Metcalfe Street yesterday as a winter storm that was expected to dump more than 30 centimetres of snow on the city whistles through.



John Manconi, Ottawa’s director of surface operations, tracks the storm at the city’s traffic control centre.

The brunt of a severe winter storm arrived in Ottawa yesterday morning, but that was about the only thing that was moving.

At Ottawa’s airport, only seven flights had managed to land before 6 p.m. yesterday, while city snow removal crews were planning an almost military-like assault against the weather in order to clear the streets in time for this morning’s commute.

Mark Alliksaar, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Ottawa could expect at least 30 centimeters of additional snowfall accumulation before the storm moved on, sometime early this morning. The record snowfall for the day in Ottawa had been 30.4 cm, set on Dec. 21, 1977.

“It’s a possibility that we will break that,” said Alliksaar.

John Manconi, Ottawa’s director of surface operations, said 500 staff and 400 pieces of equipment had been working almost continuously since midnight on Saturday to clear the snow from major roadways, sidewalks and transit routes.

“The clearing of residential roadways, sidewalks and bus stops will be delayed,” he said.

The city intended to start plowing residential streets by early this morning and garbage collection will be delayed by one day citywide, due to the storm.

Mancini said the cost of managing the snow will be significant, but it was too early to set a final price tag.

At the airport, more than 60 planned arrivals were cancelled and most departures after 10 a.m. had to be cancelled.

“It’s up to the airlines to decide if flights get cancelled or not,” said Krista Kealey, with the Ottawa International Airport Authority. “What we do is just make sure the runways, the apron and taxiways are clear and make sure people can get into the terminal.”

Combined with winds gusting at more than 60 kilometres per hour, the blowing snow reduced visibility to near zero.

Ottawa Police were asking people to stay off the roads if possible. Const. Chris Montague said while police did deal with a rash of minor collisions, he was not aware of any major crashes on city roads yesterday.