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A snow plow operator works to keep Saint John streets clear during a storm on Feb. 2, 2021. Image: Brad Perry

Saint John adding weather stations to help improve storm response

By Brad Perry Nov 20, 2023 | 7:09 AM

Saint John will lease five portable weather stations to help improve its winter storm response.

That was one of several new initiatives city staff unveiled to members of council last week.

Tim O’Reilly, director of public works, said the goal is to give staff as much information as possible.

“If we plan too much and resource deploy too much, we’re essentially wasting city resources,” said O’Reilly.

“The counter is actually worse, where if we under plan and under resource deploy for the storm, it can amoung to dangerous conditions.”

One weather station will be located in each quadrant of the city, with the fifth station specifically focused on sidewalks.

O’Reilly said the city currently relies mainly on a variety of forecasts, but they are often less accurate due to Saint John’s coastal weather.

The new weather stations will use a combination of forecast and on-site measurements to predict a better response to storms.

“What’s the actual temperature happening in those four areas of the city, what’s the humidity happening in those areas, and as important, which we don’t have access to right now, is what’s the pavement temperature doing,” said O’Reilly.

“The air temperature will tell you whether it’s going to fall as snow or rain, but once it hits that pavement, what’s going to happen at that point? We don’t have that information right now.”

In addition, Saint John will be hanging on to four of the six plow trucks it is replacing ahead of the 2023-24 winter season.

Currently, the city only has enough equipment to cover each of the 44 street and sidewalk plow routes. O’Reilly said this will give them backup equipment in the event a truck breaks down.

The city will also increase the number of sidewalks winged with a street plow from 11 kilometres to 15 kilometres.

As well, staff are looking at starting to fine people who push snow onto streets and sidewalks. Proposed fines will range from $300 to $2,100.