Wet snow topples trees

This towering tree toppled onto a BMW sedan Wednesday morning on No. 2 Road, just north of Blundell, but despite the heavy traffic during the rush hour commute, caused no injuries. - Darrell Barr photo
This towering tree toppled onto a BMW sedan Wednesday morning on No. 2 Road, just north of Blundell, but despite the heavy traffic during the rush hour commute, caused no injuries.
— image credit: Darrell Barr photo

An already harrowing Wednesday morning commute snarled by snow, came to a halt on No. 2 Road when a large tree came crashing down onto the road, just north of Blundell around 8 a.m., its limbs stretching all the way across the street and clipping a BMW sedan in the process.

There were no reported injuries in the incident, according to city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

"Obviously we're fortunate that nobody was injured," he said, adding that another fallen tree impacted traffic at Williams Road and Railway.

Asked why the relatively light snowfall was having such an impact on trees, Townsend said that could have been because the slushy snow had a high moisture content, adding to its weight.

Elsewhere, tree branches were bending under the weight of the snow, slowing traffic to a crawl, and leading families to scramble for gloves, scarves and boots as they ushered children to school.

City spokesperson Kim Decker said city works crews, realizing snowfall was in the forecast, began pre-treating top priority routes at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

More staff were brought in at 4:30 a.m., tasked with clearing access to city facilities like fire halls, community centres, and the RCMP headquarters on No. 5 Road.

But heavy snow didn't hit Richmond until later in the morning, starting around 6 a.m., which coincided with the morning rush hour. Between two and seven centimetres accumulated.

Using equipment that includes 11 salting or ploughing trucks, that equipment also became bogged down on the roadway as traffic congestion increased as the morning commute went on.

"Unfortunately the snow arrived during peak morning rush hour. The speed of traffic naturally slows down as volumes increase during rush hour. As well, traffic generally slows down during bad weather. City snow ploughs and salters were susceptible to the same traffic conditions and therefore were caught in the traffic congestion," Decker said.

Decker said other communities reported similar conditions and encountered similar difficulties in dealing with the snowfall.

By noon on Wednesday, city crews had plough and/or salted 1,480 lane kilometres and used 112 metric tonnes of salt.

Coun. Derek Dang said the city’s top priority is always to do the main streets.

“I’m kind of surprised that the main roads were the issue,” he said.

Generally, following a heavy snowfall, the complaints involve people on the side roads that aren’t cleared, salted or sanded.

Dang suggested that perhaps it was the timing of the snowfall, and the snow’s heavy, wet consistency, that hampered the city’s response.

Curiously, Dang’s political party, Richmond First, tweeted during the snowfall: “Lots of snow and ice today. Do you feel #RichmondBC should invest more of your tax dollars in snow removal equipment?”

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