Get Out the Snow Removal Equipment - it's Winter in Montreal

Snow removal equipment cleaning up after a Montreal snowstorm.

Montreal mobilizes its' army of snow removal equipment on days like this.

According to the latest census, the Greater Montreal Area is home to over 3.5 million people.

That number would be a lot higher if it didn't snow so much.

In any event, this article will explore snow removal operations in Canada's second largest city.

car buried under snow parked on a montreal street

After an overnight snowstorm, your car probably looks something like this.

It's 6 am. and you were planning on driving to work.

Time to find the snow shovel.

It's now 6:05 and you've just started shoveling. The cities' snow removal equipment has been working all night.

graphic displaying the distance from montreal to mexico
And for good reason.

There are a lot of roads to clear.

When you add them all up, city roads equal the distance between Montreal and Mexico City.

4,200 km (2610miles) of snow-covered asphalt

Here's a summary of Montreal's elaborate snow removal procedures.

snowplow clearing snow in montrealSnow removal equipment is put to work after at least 2.5cm (1 inch) of snow has begun to accumulate on Montreal roadways.

Streets are always cleared in a priority sequence.

Highways and main streets are cleared first, while residential streets and side streets are cleared last.

We also Use Sand and Salt Trucks.

While it's snowing, large trucks spread salt and sand on the roadways. These act as abrasives and give drivers' more traction on the slippery streets.

A sand truck is used to spread abrasives on slippery streets.

When it Really Starts to Snow

A light dusting of snow is easy to clean up. Things become more challenging when we get hit with a major winter storm.

After 20-50cm (8-20inches) of snow, snow removal operations kick into high gear.

Armed with snowblowers, bulldozers, graders and dump trucks, city workers as well as private contractors get to work.

During the first phase, snow plows will clear our streets. The results look like this.

Snow covered car on a Montreal street.

Most city-dwellers don't have access to private driveways or underground parking. Street parking is the norm.

So once the snow plow passes, vehicles become buried in snowbanks
and city streets become very narrow.

Getting around can be quite difficult.

Montreal Snow Removal - Phase 2

No parking snow street.

To effectively clean things up, all that accumulated snow must be carted away. It is then dumped in one of the city's many snow dumps.

This is a big operation. Under normal circumstances it takes 3 days to clear a modest snowfall of 12 cm (4.7 in).

no parking sign on snowy montreal streetTo begin this process, the city installs its' orange no parking signage. Signs are usually installed 12 hours before the snow removal begins.

Again, this process follows the same priority sequence. Snow plows will clear main streets first, side streets last.

Tow trucks will then travel down the street blaring a distinctive "snow horn." This allows the owner one last chance to move their vehicle. All remaining vehicles are then promptly towed to a nearby side street and issued $92 dollar ticket.

Listen to a sound recording of Montreal snow removal operation.

plow pushes snow to center of street
Plow pushes snow to center of street.

snow removal equipment blocks a busy montreal intersection
Snow Removal Equipment blocks a busy Montreal intersection.

Once all the parked cars have been moved, bulldozers will push the snow into the middle of the street.

All the snow which has accumulated on sidewalks and street curbs ends up here.

Ideally, this type of operation happens overnight, when fewer people are inconvenienced.

However street closures do occur during the day.

I took these pictures when a major intersection in downtown Montreal was closed for 20 minutes.

Finally it's time for the

Monster Snowblower

Industrial sized snowblower used during montreal winter snow removal

close up of snow being thrown from snowblower into dumptruck

The final step in the process occurs when a giant snowblower moves down the line of neatly packed snow.

The shoot is directed into a queue of waiting dump trucks, which will haul it to one of the cities' many snow dumps.

And a Parade of Snow-Filled Dump Trucks

During one of these snow removal operations, you'll see dump trucks everywhere.

The trucks are usually modified with large plywood extensions so they can transport more snow.

Here's some video of
Montreal's Snow Removal Equipment in Action

On it's Way to the City Snow Dump

Ultimately all that snow ends up here, in one of Montreal's snow dumps.

I took this picture in March 2008, at the tail end of particularly snow-filled winter.

The snow was finally fully melted sometime in July.

Snow removal equipment moves all our snow to one of these snow dumps.

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