Yellowknife struggling to clear above-average snowfall

Onslaught of snow

Residents and city staff in the Northwest Territories capital are struggling to keep up with an onslaught of snow.

Longtime Yellowknifer and former territorial politician Kieron Testart says he was backing out of his driveway on Friday morning when he got stuck in a snowbank that had formed overnight.

"I had done what I could to clear it, but there's just so much of it that shovels really aren't enough," he said. "I haven't seen it like this in a very, very long time."

Testart said he was rescued by a neighbour, who was driving around and pulling out other drivers who got stuck in the snow.

"When snow is paralyzing the community, it affects everything from schools to the economy to public safety," he said.

Chris Greencorn, director of public works and engineering with the city, said this month's snow is nearly six times what fell at this time last year.

"It's pressed us pretty much to the max," he said. "All of our crews are working day and night."

Adding to the problem, Greencorn said, is that many residents have been shovelling snow from their driveways onto the road, which is against city bylaws.

"(That) makes it worse for smaller cars and people with movement disabilities to get around," he said.

Greencorn said while some residents have expressed frustration with the city's snow clearing efforts, Yellowknife's budget is based on historical trends and currently allows for eight plows.

The city said Friday that they plan to join forces with contractors over the weekend and next week to increase snow removal and winter road maintenance throughout Yellowknife.

Sara Hoffman, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said as of Tuesday, 46.6 centimetres of snow had fallen in Yellowknife compared to a 30-year average of 31.9 centimetres. But she said that's nowhere near the November record of 85.5 centimetres in Yellowknife set in 2006.

Hoffman said this month has also been warmer than usual in the city at an average of -10 C compared to a historical average of about -14 C. The warmest Yellowknife November on record was in 1983 when a mean temperature of -5.9 C was recorded.

But the warm temperatures aren't expected to last. Hoffman said a cold snap is coming as early as Monday, when temperatures are expected to drop more than 10 degrees below average for this month.

"It might be a little bit shocking," she said. "It's going to be a very sharp shift in the temperatures."

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