From Sea to Snow

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  • I love snow. Growing up in a small county of the Kerman Province in Iran called Sarcheshmeh, I was five when I first experienced snow, and coming from a tropical country, it was an amazing sight. For a child, snow meant more playtime, and in the 1970s, there were no electronic gadgets to keep you away from outdoor play. For an adults, though, snow means more pain than pleasure – slippery or impassable roads, and more hours on the road to get to work.

    Winter dumped an awful lot of snow in the Lower Mainland in 2016, and while it was a welcome at the beginning, it became a nuisance towards the end, especially when municipalities did not know how to handle the amount that fell. All the cities were scrambling around to de-ice the roads, but as they snow fell day after day, the layers piled up, with ice staying at the bottom of the layer. While the city engineer’s office was able to cope with the amount of snow on the main roads with salt and sand, side streets became landscapes of white from the neglect and unprepared city administrators who had no contingency for a problem such as this.

    If you think about it, Vancouver gets this much snow once every five or six years, so one would think that because we don’t have this phenomena happening to us every year, we would have at least a little bit of money in our city budgets to cover years when these things do happen. One would also think that the city engineer’s office, since they don’t have a lot of infrastructure problems because of the budgets they have, would have a contingency plan when winter hits us with a snow storm. As a mater of fact, instead of preparing for situations like these emergencies, they’d rather tear up streets for new water and electrical lines, and neglect to put them back in their old, nicely paved condition (attention city engineer of Surrey – check out 68th street in front of Unwin Park) or mess up traffic and lose parking spaces for bike lanes that aren’t even used 365 days in a year by the entire population of the city.

    Unfortunately, none of our city administrators had the foresight nor the blue prints ready for such situations. Perhaps too much coffee and donuts are weighing them all down, and they stop planning for things because they don’t see it happening; however, isn’t that what planning is all about? American engineer and economist William Deming, who helped take Japan out of its rut after World War II, said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I guess the city administrators don’t even know who Deming was, because they failed miserably.

    Another thing that comes out of this is how some people behave in adversity. Canadians have always been known to be a patient and giving people, so when the city dumped salt on the streets of Vancouver, some scrambled, elbowed, pushed and shoved neighbours to get to the bounty that every one was after. The behaviour was featured on the news, and it made me feel embarrassed, as most of the mob were non-English speaking and Asian. It was not very Canadian at all, and the behaviour that they displayed makes you think of why you left your home country in the first place. Every home owner should know that it is their responsibility to clear the front of their sidewalks, so these things should not happen in neighbourhoods. The neighbourly and Canadian thing that should have happened was for these people to have come together and help each other out clear their own street and sidewalks so that they did not have to behave like animals for a bucket of salt. Instead, they chose to show their children how not to behave.

    Despite the pitfalls, there is much to thank the city administrators for, especially the road workers who braved the cold during the storms.  Without them, the major roads would still be ice rinks. The bottom line is hopefully, they learned their cold, hard lesson this year, and plan ahead so that they can avoid failure in the future.



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