The head of Toronto’s public works committee says the city is prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at it this winter.

“We got a break last year. It was a very mild winter by any standards and it helped the city’s pocket book,” Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said at a news conference on Tuesday. “This winter we don’t know what’s in store but winter is coming and we’ll be ready for it.”

Last year’s mild winter used up $70 million of the $82 million budget for snow removal. The city outsources three-quarters of its snow removal services so it still had to pay contractors who were on standby, he said.

This season, the city has 600 road plows, 200 salt trucks and 300 sidewalk plows ready to clear the streets of snow and ice during this season, he said.

“Keeping people moving efficiently and safely on our roads is our first priority,” he said.

The city’s first response to a snowfall will be to send its fleet of salt trucks to main roads and expressways. Then they cover collector roads and local roads.

If snow persists, plows are dispatched in stages depending on the accumulation of snow. When there is 2.5 centimetres of snow, the plows are sent to clear expressways, he said.

When there is five centimeters of snow, the plows start working on the main roads. And when there’s an accumulation of eight centimetres of snow, they go out to clear local roads and sidewalks.

On average, it takes between 14 and 16 hours to plow local roads after a snowstorm, so the city appreciates residents’ patience he said.

In the central part of Toronto, residents and property owners are required to clear the snow themselves  (on sidewalks) because the city’s mechanical equipment can’t do it.

While crews are out doing their job, residents can help by doing the following:

  • where possible, keep parked car off city streets, which helps plows do their work.
  • don’t push snow onto the road as it hampers plows; shovel it onto your property.

During the winter months, the number of watermain breaks increases as cold temperatures cause soil to freeze and expand, putting pressure on the pipes, Minnan-Wong said

Unfortunately, there’s nothing residents can do to help prevent burst city pipes. But they’re advised to contact 311 for help.