Low number of complaints, despite record-breaking snowfall

snow running

Like most Calgary winters, this season has been a mix of extremes: dumps of snow, 90-kilometre per hour winds and fluctuations of temperatures creeping up into the double digits, and then plummeting back down to -30 C.

Environment Canada even issued a “flash freeze” warning for the city over the holidays, a term unfamiliar to many Calgarians. Such a warning is issued when “significant ice is expected to form on roads, sidewalks or other surfaces from either melted snow, or fallen rain due to a rapid drop intemperatures.”

Many drivers know this means traffic will be a nightmare, but getting around the city can also be treacherous for pedestrians.

So while the City of Calgary works on keeping the roads clear, it’s up to residents to ensure that the sidewalks stay safe for passers-by.

Alvin Murray, operations manager for animal and bylaw services, says that this particular winter has created extra challenges, but so far, Calgarians have been keeping up.

“Morally, you want to take care of your neighbours and people who are using your sidewalks,” Murray says. “There are vulnerable people – elderly, kids and disabled persons – who you don’t want falling and hurting themselves. You can get horrific injuries.”sidewalk shovelKimberly McMillan, who is the snow angel of the southwest community of Braeside,  says he frequently helps clean the streets not just because it helps out the neighbours, but because it keeps him active during the cold winter months.
Photo by Micky Chan

According to Environment Canada statistics, Calgary normally averages 65 centimetres of snow between November and February. This year’s snowfall has far exceeded the average for the entire season, with more than 100 centimetres already fallen.

But there’s more than just a moral obligation for residents to keep sidewalks safe. According to City of Calgary bylaws, “property owners are responsible for removing ice and snow from city sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling.”

If someone notices a walkway hasn’t been cleared, they can phone 311 and file a complaint. From there, an issue will be noticed to the resident giving them 24 hours to comply. If the snow still needs to be removed, a private contractor will be sent to clear it away and the bill will be given to the resident.

“That bill is starting at $160, and based on square footage, can be more,” Murray says.

Regarding snow clearing, Murray says so far at least 4,000 complaints have been issued this season, but for the most part, he says Calgarians have been keeping up.

“Out of all those calls, we’ve only sent out about 300 contractors to go clear snow,” Murray says. “Considering the number of people in this city, Calgarians have been very compliant.”

Tips for Snow Control from Bylaw Manager Alvin Murray

  • Use snow and ice removal products. You can pick up free sand to help with the ice from most fire stations in Calgary. Remember to bring your own container to fill. The complete list can be found at calgary.ca
  • Shovel snow as quickly as possible after it falls. It’s less strenuous to remove before it’s trampled down by pedestrians.
  • Call 311, go to 311 online or use the new 311 mobile app to file snow related complaints.

Murray says he also credits the Snow Angel program with helping keep sidewalks clear. This volunteer program encourages Calgarians to help out neighbours who may be elderly or are physically limited and cannot clear their own walks.

The City of Calgary’s website acclaims the Snow Angels program as life saving, stating that after a heavy snowfall, EMS crews tend to see a dramatic increase in calls related to heart attacks due to over exertion.

Since 2004, more than 6,000 Snow Angels have been recognized, receiving a pin and a letter from the mayor. If you know someone who may be in need of assistance with their snow removal duties, you can visit the City of Calgary website to nominate a Snow Angel.


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