Holiday storm kept crews busy clearing snow

Heather Latter

With Mother Nature having dumped more than 35 cm (14 inches) of snow on Fort Frances over Christmas, town crews and local companies were kept busy plowing streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways during the holidays.
Milt Strachan, the town’s transportation superintendent, said since there was warning of a possible storm ahead of time, they were able to make some plans before the snow began to fall on Christmas Eve.
“At this time of the year, we are really shorthanded with a lot of people on vacation, so we had to call some of them to make sure we had enough guys available to run two 12-hour shifts,” Strachan noted.
He said it takes about 24 hours to clear the whole town once.
“Once we had enough manpower to do the plowing, we just carried on and plowed for more than 48 hours straight,” he remarked.
Frank Fraser, of Quality Custom Lawn and Garden Services here, also was kept busy throughout Christmas but understands that it’s the business they are in.
“Our biggest concern is keeping homes open for the people, for emergencies, and over the Christmas holidays, people have company coming in from out of town, so making sure their driveways and sidewalks were clear,” he explained.
Fraser noted he also worked many 12-hour shifts since the company takes care of snow plowing for about 28 places and tries to get them all done that day.
“There are also people without families and don’t have anyone to help them out over the holiday, so we make sure they can get in and out of their houses,” he said, stressing it’s quite a concern for many seniors.
“Even though they may not be going anywhere, they want to know that they can if they have to and that emergency services can get in,” he added.
While Fraser said he’s often busy at Christmas time for these reasons, last week’s storm certainly was a big one.
“We were concerned about people driving and travelling, too,” he said. “But our customers were very thankful, offering us
Christmas baking and stuff, which helps to motivate you.”
“It was quite the storm,” echoed Strachan. “It’s probably one of the bigger snowfalls that we’ve gotten all at once in quite some time.”
But just because the snow has stopped falling doesn’t mean the work by local crews and companies stops. Now they’ll spend the coming days working on snow removal.
“Hopefully, people are patient because there is a lot of snow,” said Strachan.
Since the town’s sidewalk plow currently is broken, he admitted they are way behind with clearing sidewalks. But he added they’ve rented a sidewalk blower and had that out yesterday morning.
“We’ll catch up as much as we can with that, but it’s going to take some time,” he warned.
Strachan explained the sidewalks have to be blown free of snow—instead of plowing it—because there is nowhere to pile all the white stuff.
“It’s a lot of snow for a snowblower to blow through,” he remarked, noting crews also are working on removing snow in particular areas of town.
For instance, Strachan said snow was removed from the underpass Monday night and they began clearing snow in the downtown area then, as well.
“We’ll carry on with that all week but we’re shorthanded,” he reiterated.
“We’ve got a four-man night crew and a five-man day crew right now, so we can only do what we can do with that many men.”
But everyone will be back from vacation in the New Year and crews will be back to full strength, Strachan pledged.
“We’ve got a lot to do,” he acknowledged.
Despite the snow hitting at “the worse possible time,” being the Christmas holiday, Strachan was pleased with the work his crews did to keep the streets clear.
“They know what their role is,” he remarked, adding several men who were on vacation came in to help and they plowed the entire town three times over the weekend.
“I think they did a great job and now we hope people are patient as we work on removing the snow,” Strachan said.