A big snowfall in late December left fat pillows of snow on signs, fences, picnic tables lake and even covered the surface of Mayo Dam. (Kathryn Swan photo)

A big snowfall in late December left fat pillows of snow on signs, fences, picnic tables lake and even covered the surface of Mayo Dam. (Kathryn Swan photo)

Residents complain of slow snow clearing at Lake Cowichan

The recent snowfall “unfortunately occurred at an awkward time in our small town”: mayor

Less than a week after a rare white Christmas, Mother Nature dropped a fresh blanket of snow on Lake Cowichan overnight between Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.

With close to 32 cm of snow already on the ground from the previous snowfall events, nearly 11 cm more fell overnight Dec. 29-30 around the lake, which, was generally on par with neighbouring municipalities.

Environment Canada meteorologist Brian Proctor said the amount and timing of the snow is “not common but it’s not atypical.”

The weather system had brought an Arctic ridge of high pressure over much of Vancouver Island, and the chilly temperatures and the snowfall along with it, he said.

“It’s really indicative of the outflow from Alaska,” Proctor explained, noting the 1996 major snow event happened due to the same type of weather systems.

Even so, Proctor noted, the amount of snowfall in any given area “can be highly variable across the inner South Coast.”

Both Ladysmith and the Malahat regions got 13 cm overnight while the Sturdies Bay station on Galiano Island measured just 3 cm.

Some residents of the Cowichan Lake area weren’t thrilled with the Town of Lake Cowichan’s response to snow-clearing.

Barbara Postleb, who lives off Point Ideal Drive, said the town’s trucks had salted the road before the snow but “that didn’t help much.”

“I just shook my head in disbelief,” she said. “I’ve an AWD Subaru and get through but my neighbours and some visitors either had to park on Point Ideal or couldn’t venture out.”

She thinks that the holidays were the issue, she said.

“With a longterm weather forecast like this for the holidays they should have had a back up plan,” Postleb said. “I think, this should really be addressed especially if there’re emergencies and lack of access.”

And she wasn’t the only one who wondered why the town wasn’t better prepared.

“It’s only a matter of time before a family or elder is struck walking the side of the road because sidewalks are unshoveled and plowed in,” said Shane Hoegi, who says despite municipal bylaws, the courts have proven citizens can’t be held liable if someone slips on the sidewalk in front of their house.

“Moms with strollers, elders with walkers, wheelchair, or mobility scooters cannot access crosswalks because of uncleared sidewalks. Catch a bus? Nope, can’t even get to the bus stop. Year after year it’s the same thing. There’s a bylaw requiring me to do the city sidewalk in front of my home. I’m just wondering when will it apply to the municipality? It seems to be a repeated failure going on 10 years at least.”

The recent snowfall “unfortunately occurred at an awkward time in our small town,” said Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day.

“Between broken water lines, a snowfall and the holiday season our small public works department was stretched in many directions. Unlike the main highway contractor, the town does not use a lot of salt brine or other solutions to prepare the road surface for snow and ice. We prefer to use sand instead,” Day said.

“The reason for this is that when the snow melts and the rain comes, this brine product and salt wash right into the heritage Cowichan River and adjacent streams, which we all know are home to many fish and wildlife. Because of the way we treat our roads for freezing conditions, vehicles actually get better traction without plowing right away. Plowing can create a slick surface.”

Day said on Dec. 30, after the larger dump of snow, the plows had to get out because of the depth of snow.

“I encourage everyone to drive according to road conditions and sometimes that means driving half the posted speed limit,” he said. “Better to be safe than sorry. In my travels I have seen many residents helping each other out with sidewalks and driveways and that is a happy sight. People helping people is what makes small town special.”

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