Snow volume and sustained winds were the real challenge, says city official

By Kirk Winter

File photo.

As rural areas in Kawartha Lakes continue to dig out from last weekend’s winter storm, public patience with the pace of the clean-up by the city and private contractors appears to be wearing thin.

While things appear to be improving in Ward Six, residents of Ward One still report “mountainous snowdrifts” blocking numerous sideroads making travel “all but impossible.” One recent social media post from the Kirkfield area reported that good Samaritans had taken to snowmobiles to check on neighbours and deliver necessities to snowed-in residents. But even they have pulled their machines off the roads and fields because they were bogging down and becoming stuck as temperatures continue to rise well above freezing.

Bryan Robinson, director of public works for Kawartha Lakes is well aware that snow is not being removed quickly enough and shared the reasons in an interview with the Advocate.

“The reason a declaration of significant weather event was made on Dec. 24 and extended until Dec. 30 was due to the volume of snow and the high winds that led to sustained drifting of snow across roads,” Robinson said. “Roads that were treated appeared to be untreated in a matter of hours. We knew that even with all resources deployed, we would not be able to meet the standard level of service on the roads.”

“The declaration, and the conditions of some roads today (Dec. 28) being closed or snow covered is not related to staffing or equipment availability. It is the sheer volume of snow that is covering certain roads, in some cases, several feet of snow.”

“I cannot stress enough,” Robinson said, “that clearing this volume of snow and drifts from blowing wind has been extremely resource and time intensive. In some areas, it is taking an hour to clear one kilometre of road. We are staffed to the optimum level and contracted services have been utilized daily. The city took every action to prepare for this storm, and continue to take every action available to clear to the roads as quickly and safely as possible.”

“All 5,400 lane kilometers of roads and sidewalks throughout the municipality have been treated since the storm onset and we continue to operate under full callout as of December 28,” Robinson said.

“I’d like to thank the public for their patience and cooperation through this difficult time,” Robinson added.

Robinson also wanted to remind residents that Kawartha Lakes is the second largest geographic municipality in Ontario. 

He said for driver safety, snowplow driver’s hours are limited by provincial regulations, and that if a citizen sees a truck with their blade up or not applying material to the road that means the plow is currently travelling to or from their designated route — and often times trucks need to travel other roads to reach their assigned routes.    

1 Comment

  1. Joan Abernethy says:

    Ontario Meteorologists say the recent storm event was worse than the 1977 blizzard that had similar effects in many of our communities. So, we all have sympathy for the City’s public works staff that we all know work hard. But the timing made it worse. Not only were people alarmed that emergency personnel could not access their loved ones in medical distress but, in the wake of two years of holidays cancelled because of COVID restrictions, they were also upset because they could not travel and celebrate in peace with their loved ones. This is a sentiment shared by the City’s Director of Public Works, Bryan Robinson, who told councillors who contacted him to advocate for their constituents that it was inappropriate for them to contact him while he was on holiday. He told them to instruct residents to lodge their complaints using the City’s digital complaints process: I don’t know how fast digital reports are responded to or if they are even registered or acknowledged by staff until well after a big holiday like Christmas but regardless, I think it is outrageous for Mr. Robinson and the mayor to demand constituents and their advocates apologize to him for interrupting his holiday during an emergency. He has had no problem giving interviews to media during his holiday, so why doesn’t he want to respond to residents in distress? For the salary he makes, he should go out of his way to support residents in distress and not take it out on councillors whose job it is, as freely elected representatives of KL residents, to advocate for the needs of their constituents, especially when they are in distress. If integrity in Kawartha Lakes is to have any meaning at all, it must be practiced by everyone, including executives. While I think that humble pie is generally overrated, if anyone owes an apology, it is Mayor Elmslie and Mr. Robinson who owe an apology to the residents of Kawartha Lakes for the City’s failure to respond to their needs and to the councillors they tried to intimidate into apologizing for doing their jobs on behalf of constituents in distress. N.B. this source shows Bryan Robinson made $157,922.91 in 2022:

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