Snow that was an embarrassment to Toronto & Ontario

It was a disaster waiting to happen. Four days after a major snowfall that dropped up to 20 cm on Greater Toronto in March, the city buried downtown sidewalks with ice for almost 48 hours.

The sidewalks appeared untouched until the sidewalks were suddenly exposed and slippery and saw massive crashes. People trying to walk into their cars crashed into each other on city sidewalks, many stepping on cars even though they were still warm and driving was practically impossible.

Many trips to lunch in the city were ruined because pedestrians couldn’t find a sidewalk. An email sent from a private sector employee to the City of Toronto’s website said, “By the way, do you know how costly this is to me? I would buy 2 seats. The roads are completely empty and can get cleaned!”

This was an embarrassment to not only this city, but to the province, the private sector and the city’s morale.

The tremendous chaos and damage to lives and businesses after this horrendous weather event showed not only a total failure of communication with other agencies, but a total failure to protect the city’s assets.

We need emergency managers who are able to communicate with all of the agencies and agencies in the city to determine what is needed and what can be done.

Another large issue was the response time of the city’s roads crews in responding to the blizzard.

It is unacceptable for them to not be prepared for this, and for that time to be when the city and citizens need them the most.

The response time for the first day was 6.36 pm, the second day was 7:21 pm and the third day was 7:20 pm. With critical infrastructure in the city being harmed by this natural disaster, Toronto residents expected better.

However, this is not the only issue with the city’s response to snow storms. During Toronto’s winter hectic season, the city has made much news for similar, though not as major, incidents. It is unacceptable for the city to treat people’s houses as private property and charge for shovelling as though they were renting out the house. The city allows the homeowners to deposit over 500 dollars on their property tax for snow removal. I understand the city’s safety needs in the winter, but allowing such overwhelming debt to people’s houses and property is something that should not be tolerated.

When the government can’t even keep its sidewalks from being covered by melting snow, maybe they should consider overhauling their snow removal efforts and consider it a disaster response issue.

Brenda Johnstone is an E.P.I.C. Program Administrator.

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