When winter hits the Okanagan, men and women in many communities are ready to jump into their snowplows and sanding trucks day or night to keep our many kilometers of roadways clear and open to traffic. They're called into action whenever there are one or more inches of snow on the ground or when the highways become icy.

On bitterly cold winter nights or very early mornings while most of us are tucked snugly in bed, phones will ring and pagers will buzz to send many of our neighbours, friends and family members out to work inspecting and clearing our roadways and filing road reports for us so we can plan our trips. Checking the local weather forecasts doesn't always prepare them for how little sleep they might get or having to break plans they've made with family and friends.

Even the most experienced snowplow operators will admit that their working conditions are sometimes nerve-wracking. They're usually the first and sometimes the only vehicles out on a stretch of roadway in the dark, or coping with poor visibility caused by a storm, clearing snow and ice that would defeat other drivers. That's their job.

Despite their best efforts, sometimes Mother Nature gets the upper hand. When that happens, all of us who drive on our roads and highways have an important role to play in keeping things safe. When heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures or freezing rain hit, motorists must plan ahead, drive according to road conditions and give snowplows the room they need to get the job done. In particularly bad weather, avoid travelling if possible to allow maintenance crews to clear snow and ice more quickly and safely.

Winter in the Okanagan and throughout BC is always tricky for traveling but you can always count on snowplows and roads crews to get the roads clear. On busy routes, roads crews salt and/or sand into the snow, breaking it up and causing the roads to clear with use.

When the snow starts to fall, a snowplow operator's day can start in the early morning or late night hours. They get to the point where they know where the bad spots are; and the hills typically get done first. The plows in the Lake Country wards focus on the main roads, school bus and transit routes and steep roads as a priority. Many local roads are plowed at the same time that the hills are done, whenever it is practical and sensible to do. The crews will then do plow-backs to widen the roads and make them as clear as possible. It's a constant tug of war switching truck gears from drive to reverse and back again, finding the quickest pattern to move the snow, all while being on the lookout for other motorists.

It's a priority to get the roads open for the police, firefighters and ambulance drivers. Emergencies can happen at any time and it's the job of the roads crews to keep it passable for the public. There are people on the roads 24-7.

On occasion, residents get extremely upset when the snowplow drives by and plows their driveways shut. They do what they can to try to avoid plowing in driveways when possible, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Another problem many plow drivers run into is when residents either shovel or snow-blow the snow back onto the roads after the plow trucks have gone through. This is not only dangerous, but it is against District bylaws.

Staff at municipal hall, and even the Mayor on his home phone, address individual complaints as best they can. The goal of the snow removal program is to maintain the roads in a passable condition, which does not necessarily mean "bare pavement". During a snow event, everyone wishes that their road would be plowed first. However, it is necessary to follow established priorities, in order to complete District-wide snow removal for all roads in as timely a manner as possible.

Local roads that are generally flat are the lowest priority. These frequently will not be serviced until the end of a snow event, as repeat-clearing of higher-priority roads during active snowfall takes precedence. In most cases, local routes can expect to receive service within 48 hours of the end of the snow event.
Snow accumulations can be a real challenge. Roadside parking can significantly hamper snow-clearing efforts, particularly on the narrower side roads. In our conversations with residents, we are asking that they do their best to leave as much room for the plows as possible on the side roads.

Residents are reminded to clear the snow from the sidewalk directly adjacent to their property within 24 hours of a measurable snowfall. The municipal contractor will clear the sidewalks along Main Street when the snow accumulation reaches approximately one inch. Please give us a call if you observe sidewalks with hazardous conditions. Thank you for helping us keep our sidewalks clear, especially for those who find it difficult to get around in winter conditions.

Who can you call?
Regular Office Hours concerns should be directed to the District Engineering Department at (250) 766-6677, the Customer Service Centre (250) 766-5650 or via email to engineering@lakecountry.bc.ca.

Make sure to provide a name and phone number so that we can track and respond to service requests. We also we require a specific location or address, time of event and as many other details as possible. Let us know if you would like to receive a call back.

After Office Hours On evenings, weekends and holidays, snow removal concerns should be directed to the contractor's dispatch office at 1-866-353-3136.

After Hours non snow related road emergencies such as road kill removal or debris on the roadway should be directed to the Roads Duty Pager at 250-317-9780

Highway 97 is maintained by Argo Maintenance (South Okanagan) under contract to the BC Ministry of Transportation. They can be reached at (250) 766-3970.