EDMONTON — There’s no doubt Edmonton has seen less snow this winter than previous years and it’s having an impact on local businesses and the city’s snow crews.
City snow removal crews have responded to three big snow events this season compared to five last season, and there’s only been one seasonal parking ban declared this season compared to the five that were declared last winter.
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“Somewhere between El Nino and climate change we’ve had a fortunate fall and winter in the tail end of 2015 so there’s no doubt we’re going to be up on snow,” Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday.
In 2013 and 2014, the city spent more than $70 million to clear the streets. The snow removal budget for 2015 was about $60.1 million.
While the budget numbers for 2015 won’t be released for a couple of weeks, Iveson believes there will be money left over in the budget.
“It sounds like we’re going to be up. It sounds like it’ll be a healthy surplus.”
Iveson said any extra funds could be used to replenish the city’s financial stabilization reserve.
“We’ll be able to replenish our reserve, which we drew down when it was snowing a lot in previous years, which is how it’s set up to work,” Iveson added.
While there’s always a risk of a spring snowfall in Edmonton, the money used for the snow removal would come out of the 2016 budget as the city runs a calendar-year budget.
“If mild weather continues this winter/spring, then we’ll likely be ahead of the game on activities such as street sweeping and pothole filling,” Maya Filipovic, a spokesperson for the city’s Transportation Department, said.
City crews have already been taking advantage of the balmy conditions. From October to the end of January the city filled 100,000 potholes.
READ MORE: Mild Edmonton winter allows city crews to start pothole patrol
El Nino played a major role in the temperature and moisture levels over the past few months, according to Global Edmonton’s chief meteorologist Jesse Beyer.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2015 was the warmest year on record.
READ MORE: 2015 shatters record for warmest year ever
For those who rely on snow to do business, this winter has been tough. Keegan Andreas, the VP of business development at Seasonal Impact Contracting, said while they are a year-round business, snow removal is a big part of the work they do.
“This year there’s been a lot less revenue,” Andreas said. “This year there’s been obviously a lot less snow. Every year we see a big fluctuation. One year we could have a lot of snow, one year we could have no snow like this year. It’s back and forth every year.
“We have to monitor the weather 24 hours a day. We don’t know when it’s going to snow… It’s pretty hard to predict.”
The season hasn’t been a complete loss for the company, though, it’s used the time to prepare for the summer season. And with the weather unpredictable in Alberta, Andreas is hoping for at least one more blast of winter before they switch gears to summer work.
“Usually we get one big last dump before the final season ends but we don’t know this year.”
Filipovic said the city’s 2015 spending numbers will be released in mid-March.