Police appreciate good support from county roads department during harsh winter

By Liz Dadson



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South Bruce OPP constable Kevin Martin (L), community services officer, and his counterpart, Bruce Peninsula OPP constable Paul Park, are joined by snowplow operator Alvin MacAllister of Hanover (in snowplow) and Brent Glasier, operations supervisor with the Bruce County Highways department, in a brief press conference, Monday morning, regarding the harsh 2013-14 winter

A huge snowbank along Bruce County Road 1, just south Kinloss

Without the help of the Bruce County Highways department, the police, fire and ambulance services would not have been able to do their jobs during the harshest winter in 30 years.

That's the word from South Bruce OPP constable Kevin Martin, community services officer, and his counterpart, Bruce Peninsula OPP constable Paul Park.

The officers were joined by county highways operations supervisor Brent Glasier, and snowplow operator Alvin MacAllister of Hanover, for a brief press conference at the county patrol yard in Walkerton, Monday morning.

"The snowplow operators and the roads department kept the county running during the worst winter in 30 years," said Martin. "Emergency services depended on them to move the snow, so we could do what we do."

Glasier said the snowplow operators did their best under some extreme circumstances, in order to keep the public safe and to assist emergency services in rescuing stranded motorists.

Martin emphasized that the OPP closes the roads for public safety and then relies on the snowplow crews to clear those roadways so they can be reopened.

Park said a big problem for police and snowplow crews this winter, was that people were impatient. They wanted to get in their vehicles and go to work or drive home. Or they were travelling behind a snowplow and were in a hurry to get around it.

In many cases, the result was stranded motorists who needed to be rescued, said Park.

Glasier said it's difficult to ensure all county roads are marked with barricades when they are closed, but the closures are announced on the radio and on the Bruce County Highways website.

He said the roads department suffered minimal equipment damage and nobody was injured, but there was one snowplow that ended up in the ditch north of Lucknow.

As for clearing back the huge snowbanks, Glasier said the continued cold weather has not helped.

"In previous winters, we've had a January thaw and that helps shrink the snowbanks along the side of the road," he said. "This year, we've had no thaw, and we've run out of places to put the snow along the roadways.

"In my 25 years here, this is the first winter that I've seen eight snow-blowers working simultaneously to clear the roads."

He said the department hasn't had a "V"-plow in operation for years. That equipment helps break through heavy snowbanks that have drifted across the road, blocking it completely.

"We're moving toward having one of those at each patrol yard," said Glasier. "We're getting them retrofitted this year."

As for pulling the plows off the roads, Glasier said that is done only when the operators can't see the road. "Usually, the wind dies down at night and the plows can go back out in the morning."

He said today's snowplows have twice the horsepower to do the job, and the one benefit of colder weather is lighter snow which makes clearing roads a little easier.

When asked about the speed of the plows, Glasier said an experienced operator can drive the machine a little faster, but on average they run at about 50-60 km/h.


Snowbanks are still high along Bruce County Road 1, just south of Kinloss

However, this year was particularly tough due to the amount of snow and the high wind, he said, and operators had to be cautious in case they came across abandoned vehicles on the road.

If a road is closed, he said, the plow operator has driven on the opposite side to push the volume of snow to the other side of the roadway.

Martin said the OPP continues to urge people to be prepared for snowstorms, and to check the weather before they head out on their travels.

"If you know there's a blizzard in the forecast, you make sure you have your propane tank full, pick up groceries ahead of time, and stay home," he said. "If you have to travel, make sure you  have a survival kit in your vehicle. This is Bruce County - be prepared!"

Glasier said this winter, motorists were calling 911 because they had become stranded on the snowy roadway.

"Our operators went out to clear the road so emergency services could reach those drivers and save lives."

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Monday, March 24, 2014