City crews preparing for rapid snow melt

Jon LaFontaine, the city’s Supervisor of Utility Operations, says crews are preparing for a rapid snow melt. Bill Phillips photo
Jon LaFontaine, the city’s Supervisor of Utility Operations, says crews are preparing for a rapid snow melt. Bill Phillips photo

First it was the snow. Now it’s the water.

City crews have had their hands full this winter and with warm temperatures are likely to cause some rapid snow melt, crews are preparing to deal with water, which may start accumulating on streets as frozen storm drains may not be able to keep up with the water.

“The city has a couple of priority catch basins and inlets and outlets that we go out and inspect to make sure that they’re open prior to the warm weather coming,” said Jon LaFontaine, the city’s Supervisor of Utility Operations.

The city’s utilities division has a crew of roughly 40 people ready to work to ensure that the city’s more than 5,500 storm drains remain as clog-free as possible and to prevent traffic issues and localized flooding. Crews monitor areas throughout the city to spot problem drainage locations so they can be addressed before situations worsen. The city’s roads and fleet division also supply crews and equipment, including snow plows, to address open ditch and culvert flooding and drainage issues.

“The City of Prince George encourages residents to call in and report large puddles or flooding concerns to the city as this also helps us prioritize and plan,” said Jon LaFontaine.

Residents can contact the Service Centre to report large puddles at 250.561.7600 or He said it often helps city crews when they do arrive if residents know where the catch basins and storm drains are located.

Otherwise, city crews use a variety of means including GPS mapping and metal detectors to locate drains and steel grates buried under snow and ice. At this time of year, crews may use vacuum trucks to remove water from puddles and expose drains and melt ice with hot water steam units to allow meltwater to drain freely down drains, culverts, and storm inlets. Crews also employ excavators, backhoes, loaders, and graders to remove any snow and ice that may prevent water from draining properly.

“Flooding can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common causes is surface water flooding, which is typically caused by meltwater on frozen ground with nowhere to go,” said LaFontaine. “Another cause is simply system overload. Large melts and rain can cause storm systems to overload as they cannot drain the water fast enough.”

Information for property owners

Residents are reminded that it is the responsibility of property owners to procure pumps and other materials and tools necessary to protect their properties from damage due to flooding.

Property owners can work to prevent large puddles and ponding near their homes by ensuring that debris such as leaves, plastic, or paper are not covering nearby storm drains. Residents are also reminded not to use sprinklers to melt snow and ice, and that those who do may be subject to a fine per City bylaws.

“Sandbagging, tarping, ditching, and clearing clogged drains and culverts are all effective measures for reducing the risk of flooding,” said LaFontaine. “Residents with houses at risk for basement flooding are advised to have sump pumps available and to be prepared to work with neighbours to divert water to the closest storm drains.”