WESTLOCK – A week of sub –30 C weather forced the Town of Westlock to ice snow removal operations Jan. 5, something the municipality has not had to do in at least the past 10 years.
Town operations director Robin Benoit said frigid temperatures can damage hydraulic and air lines and cause microfractures in the metal, which can land a machine in the shop for weeks if repairs are needed
“The equipment can’t function as safely as it should with these cold temperatures,” said Benoit. “We don’t want to run the risk of causing damage to our tools. Our operations are based on public safety, and we want to make sure that we’re operating safely out there.”
For the Town of Westlock, policy dictates that when temperatures dip below –30 C crews are called off the streets. When temperatures hit extreme lows, the risk of frostbite increases substantially and can develop in only a few minutes.
“We’ve had some luxury over the past couple decades where the winters have not gotten colder than –20 C so we have been able to work through them,” Benoit said. “But (calling off service) isn’t uncommon. This happens in other communities as well.”
Thanks to a brief respite where temperatures settled around –25 C during the cold snap, staff were able to clear off and flood the outdoor rink, something they have not been able to do since its seasonal opening Dec. 17.
Western winds to end the chill?
We could see an end to the frigid cold this week as western winds are expected to bring in warm air to drive Jack Frost away.
“A low-pressure system will form in Northern Alberta which will cause warm winds to come in from the west,” said meteorologist Sara Hoffman in an interview Jan. 5. “This will cause the spreading of warm temperatures across the entirety of the prairies.”
Despite the extreme cold, no records were set for the Westlock area, although the cold snap did bring abnormal temperatures as average for this time of year lingers between a high of –10 C and a low of –25 C. Overnight lows through the week dipped to a low of just over –40 C on Jan. 3 while other nights hovered around –35 C.
Back to work
Town crews are slated to begin work tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 10, on a number of streets including: 107th Street from Highway 44 to 101st Avenue; 99th Street from Sobeys to the Rotary Spirit Centre; 103rdA Street from 106th Avenue to 111st Avenue; 111st Avenue from 105th Street to 103rd Street and; 103rd Street from 110th Avenue to 111st Avenue.
Crews are then slated to continue snow removal Jan. 11 on: 109th Street from 105th Avenue to 106th Avenue; 109th Street from 106thA Avenue around to 106th Street; 102nd Avenue from 100th Street to 96th Street; 98th Street from 100th Avenue to 102nd Avenue; 100th Avenue around to 99th Avenue up to 97th Street; 110th Street from 97th Avenue to 111st Street and; 99th Avenue from 111st Street to 108th Street.
The town also reminds residents to do their part in keeping sidewalks in front of residences and businesses clear.