An early morning dump of snow kept all shapes and sizes of plows and shovels busy on Nanaimo's streets Friday.

An early morning dump of snow kept all shapes and sizes of plows and shovels busy on Nanaimo's streets Friday.

VIDEO: Main roads priority for snowplows in Nanaimo

NANAIMO - Residential streets could wait up to 96 hours or more to see plows.

Following a heavy snowfall residents in Nanaimo’s nooks and crannies could wait up to 96 hours before they see a city plow come their way.

When it comes to clearing roads city plow drivers stick to a schedule of priorities and the first roads to get cleared are city’s main arterials, such as Bowen Road, the Old Island Highway, Nanaimo Parkway and any approaches to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment, fire halls, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and schools.

“Our priorities are all of our major routes and emergency routes and then the last priority is the residential areas with the cul de sacs and deadends being the last on our list,” said David Myles, city manager of roads and traffic.

Nanaimo has more than 1,100 lane-kilometres of road surfaces, the majority of which is small residential roads. One kilometre of four-lane road equals four lane-kilometres.

The city has 18 trucks, plus two contractor trucks and four backhoes available for snow clearing.

During a heavy, prolonged snowfalls, main roads might have to be plowed repeatedly to keep them clear, which will tie up equipment until some can be freed to clear residential streets.

“What we try to say is that residential areas will be plowed within 96 hours unless snow and ice conditions return,” Myles said. “Where it gets ugly is when you get a dump and then you just get things cleaned and a second wave comes in. You keep going back just to keep the priority roads open and it can be three, four, five days before you can even get into the residential areas.”

The city uses salt and liquid brine to melt ice on roads, but Myles said the city can’t guarantee bare roads when temperatures drop to around –7 C.

“That’s when salt doesn’t doesn’t work, so we use a sand/salt mixture at that point for the traction,” Myles said.

Weather forecasts call for additional snow and temperatures that could drop below -7 C by Tuesday (Dec. 13).

Small city street-cleaning machines are often seen working downtown sidewalks, but a Nanaimo city bylaw actually requires property owners to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice for pedestrian safety. Failing to clear sidewalks with 24 hours of a snowfall can net a $75 fine to the property owner or occupant.

To report a concern or make a suggestion regarding snow and ice control, please contact Nanaimo public works at 250-758-5222 or

Snow might interfere with garbage collection as well. The city advises homeowners whose garbage and kitchen waste is not picked up due to snow are asked to put their trash containers out on their next scheduled garbage collection day.

An online brochure with snow and ice removal, winter driving and other safety tips is available at