Monday, December 30, 2013

living in a snowy city / snow removal

If you live in Montreal, then you know the sound of snow removal. When it happens in the night, you hear the grumble and scrape of trucks in your sleep for what seems like hours. I wondered how long it took and timed it yesterday (since I was at my desk anyhow).

At night, signs are put out to tell people to move the cars that are parked in however-the-snow-could-be-shovelled spaces hacked into the snowbanks. During the day, a horn truck drives down the street at the stately speed of a royal procession, broadcasting an alarm that sounds like a 1940s idea for a French ambulance siren. If you don't hear it the first time, you'll hear it again on the next street and the next street. It's a piercing, continual bleat.

After the horn truck comes the tow truck to haul away cars that haven't been moved. Yesterday, within 15 min, everyone had moved their cars. No one wants to have to try to recuperate their vehicle from wherever the tow truck took it. How does one even find it again? It's not like the tow truck can leave an address under the windshield wiper.

After the tow truck comes the first of the scrapers. Anyone who's ever played in sand knows how that goes: you push a straight path and the sand slides to either side. You push through the sand that's slid, and it slides to the side. Snow is heavier and more compact than sand, so the sliding is more deliberate and bulky. In the city--with sidewalks and houses and people needing space to park cars--it's not only a question of shoving the snow to the side until you have a road again. The sides of the street are finite. The snow has to be plowed into a furrow that gets collected in a truck.

I stopped counting how often the plow passed--because I didn't want to count, not because I couldn't hear it. With each pass, it's amazing the street doesn't get torn away, especially the way the plow barrels along.

Finally come the snow trucks in a nose to bumper chain. Next to the first truck drives a chewing machine that chomps through the mound of snow plowed down the street. The mechanism is so heavy and large it could equally chew a small car. Okay, I'm exaggerating. The person driving the machine would notice a car. But not a bicycle or a bush or... a pet.

Snow gets spewed into the back of a truck.

When one truck is filled, the next moves into place. How big are these trucks? Some of them, very.

Where do they take the snow? It's filled with gravel, salt and whatever else the city has strewn in the past week to keep cars from sliding.

The plow returns to rescrape the snow that was missed. The chomping machine and the snow trucks too.

Six hours from the horn truck's first pass until the last snow truck left.

And when is it going to snow again?

1 comment:

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