Mayor’s Column – February 21, 2018

February 21, 2018


I was driving about town today, didn’t seem to have a care in the world, and noticed the enormous piles of snow in just about every blank space. Can’t remember the last time the snow came so energetically, so utterly beautifully, for so long, to pile up so deep and wide. It helps us to remember the real meaning of winter. Ah, what could be whiter than snow?

Snow fell on the secondary roads and major highways just as happily as on the streets and blank spaces. And then the wind came with swirls and gusts and blindingly rearranged it. No sooner had the plow truck passed creating its own private, rapidly moving whiteout than there was another inch of the stuff blown onto the road. This time it was not light and fluffy. Instead, it had been transformed into something more akin to white flour that quickly turned to ice or slush according to the temperature at the time. Whatever the end product, it was not a preferred base for carefree driving.

My memory is sometimes a bit spotty, but I think I am pretty sure that I probably have never before had an appointment in Fort St. John (FSJ) on a day when the Alaska Highway was closed by blowing snow. So it was yesterday when Mirja and I had to attend in FSJ. (Shop local fan that I am, I have to concede that occasionally we have business in the city.) The drive on the alternate route through Hudson’s Hope was 150 minutes of white knuckle – mediocre to poor winter driving condition.

But I hasten to assure you that I am not complaining. Sometimes the forces of the natural world are such that it is simply best, wisest, and safest to stay at home and leave the travel routes to the maintenance crews, the crazies who don’t seem to know about driving to conditions, and the brave and dependable first responders. (An ambulance, sitting meekly in the ditch, lights flashing, and a van resting securely on its roof were all the mishaps we witnessed.)

No. And I won’t be complaining about the maintenance our streets are getting. In fact, I applaud the patience, the faithfulness, the skill, and the endurance of our outside workers who brave the storm before daylight to open the streets for safe driving. Indeed, I have no sympathy for anyone who complains that the condition of the streets has never been worse in the last ten years. Maybe so. So what? The plow will get to your street sooner or later.

We haven’t had a dump of snow like this in the last ten years. We have the same number of snow plows, haul trucks, and operators as we have every year which our loyal residents support with reasonable taxes. We wouldn’t want to up the tax rates to buy another plow and hire another operator just to have them sitting idle when the snow ceases to fall. You wouldn’t like that either, would you? You’ll put up with a few rutty streets and a little inconvenience until the crew gets them cleared, won’t you? I guess you’ll have to, just as all of us have to.

Five or six years ago I wrote about the schedule of snow clearing. I don’t remember every detail and I am not going to interrupt the work of the crew to find out right now. It is sufficient for my needs to know that there is a schedule that makes sense.

It goes something like this: The streets crucial for our collective safety and movement are cleared before other streets. The airport gets high priority for obvious reasons. (If you have a heart attack while shoveling the snow from your driveway and need an air evacuation, you’ll be happy to know, when you wake up in Vancouver, that the airport was cleared of snow just for you, just in time.) Hospital road also is high priority. Steep hill clearing is done before level streets.

It all makes sense. You get the picture, don’t you? Of course you do. I’ll belabor the point no more. Happy driving and keep safe with your gas tank full.

Oh, by the way, I keep going back to the ancients for sparkles of their wisdom. Here’s another that makes sense to me: “Do not pay attention to every word people say.” Of course, “plans fail for lack of council, but with many advisors they succeed.”


Merlin Nichols, Mayor