Toronto needs a new plan for extreme winter weather, staff say reports of massive January storm

Toronto spent $ 17 million on snow removal operations alone after the massive snowstorm that hit the city in January – a total of 20 percent of the city’s winter maintenance budget.

The storm highlights the need for the city to develop an extreme winter weather response plan complete with new service levels, staff said in a new report Tuesday. However, the consultation work to create that plan will not be completed until the beginning of 2023, the report states.

City council members, who faced a large number of complaints from the public, earlier this year demanded more information about the snow removal from city staff. This report is the staff’s response.

The storm was the city’s largest in 20 years, staff said. By the time it was over, Toronto had been hit by 55 inches of snow, falling five inches per hour at the height of the storm.

And then came weeks of cold temperatures.

“The temperatures below freezing that followed the storm and lasted for more than two weeks created a unique set of challenges for storm cleanup,” staff said.

These included, but were not limited to:

  • Higher wear on equipment that caused maintenance problems.
  • The fact that crews that do snow clearing also do snow clearing.
  • Toronto simply does not have storage capacity for such a large amount of snow.

In a statement Tuesday, Mayor John Tory said he requested the staff report in January – while crews were still removing snow – to ensure the city investigated how its departments handled the situation.

The report will be discussed in the Infrastructure and Environment Committee and in the City Council, Tory said.

“I have made it clear to Transportation Services that I want regular updates on the ongoing work to improve our extreme winter weather preparedness and response,” Tory said.

Updates include the development of an extreme winter weather response plan, an internal review of snow removal operations, collaboration with contractors to expand service delivery and the creation of a snow-related 311 hotline to respond to residents, he added.

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