Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

January snowfall eats up plowing budget

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WINNIPEG has already plowed through close to half of its annual snow-clearing budget after last month's heavy snowfall.

On Monday, city officials revealed it cost Winnipeg about $11 million to clear snow from city streets in January -- nearly twice as much as the $6 million the city had budgeted for.

Environment Canada weather data show the city typically receives about 23 centimetres of snow in January. In January 2013, 40.2 cm of snow fell in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg has budgeted about $26 million for snow-clearing this year.

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said it will be a challenge to budget for snow-clearing going forward, and the city may have to use some of its surpluses if the city continues to see higher-than-normal snowfall levels.

According to a city finance report, Winnipeg recorded a $15.9-million surplus last year -- higher than the estimated $12.5 million, which was put toward Winnipeg's 2013 operating budget. A city statement said the remaining $3.4-million surplus will go toward any budget challenges this year, such as higher-than-normal snowfall.

Browaty said the city had a bad start with all the snowfall at the beginning of the year, but Winnipeg will continue to clear streets to ensure the safety of its residents.

"It doesn't come as a surprise to anybody that we had a lot of snow at the beginning of the year," he said.

So far this month, Winnipeg has received 8.6 cm of snow, according to Environment Canada. Historical weather data show about 14 cm of snow falls in Winnipeg during February.

The last time Winnipeg was pummelled with this much snow was January 2011, when the city received 50 cm in a month, city officials said in a statement.

Larger storms take longer to clean up, city officials said, but smaller and more frequent snowfalls call for Winnipeg crews to clear streets more often.

In January, the city conducted two major plowing operations and one snow-hauling operation to make streets and bridges passable following repeated accumulations of snow. During a plowing operation, city crews work 12-hour shifts, seven-days a week to get the job done.

City of Winnipeg officials did not have information on the city's most expensive plowing operation.

On Jan. 7, 1989, Winnipeg received 23 cm of snow in a single day -- the record for extreme daily snowfall in January.

The all-time daily snowfall record in Winnipeg was set on March 4, 1966, when 35.6 cm of snow fell in one day.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2013 B1

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