Toronto’s recovery from the blizzard could take the rest of the week

It will take the rest of the week to dig Toronto completely out during one of the biggest snowstorms of recent times, senior officials said Tuesday.

“The work is going on 24 hours a day until the job is done,” said Mayor John Tory, speaking at a news conference the day after 36cm of snow temporarily paralyzed the city, forcing schools and COVID-19 vaccination clinics to close.

While schools remained closed Tuesday, vaccination clinics were back to normal operation, with more than 5,000 people booked to be vaccinated at five city-run clinics, Tory said.

The Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board informed parents that schools were to reopen Wednesday.

“The vast majority of TDSB schools and places have been plowed and thanks to the great work of our caretakers are now available,” according to the TDSB letter sent to parents on Tuesday afternoon.

Childcare programs that serve infants, toddlers and preschoolers may also remain open, according to the TDSB letter, but families are encouraged to contact operators directly to confirm they are open.

Programs offered before and after classes will be open and all continuing education programs will resume as usual.

Halton District School Board, York Region District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said they will also reopen Wednesday.

Durham Catholic District School Board said It was “optimistic” that schools would reopen for personal learning. Durham District School Board said Tuesday night that “at this point, we expect schools to be open.”

Peel District School Board announced personal learning would reopen for elementary and high school students, except for elementary school students who are enrolled in online learning.

Tory said 600 road plows, 200 salt trucks and 360 sidewalk plows were out Tuesday.

Several rounds of plowing and salting were carried out overnight Monday on highways and major roads, and work was underway on local roads Tuesday, Tory said.

Many urban operations have been negatively impacted by staff absenteeism due to COVID-19, but Vincent Sferrazza, director, transportation operations and maintenance for the city of Toronto, said his department has been working with contractors for several months to ensure operations would be able to to continue uninterrupted in the event of a major storm.

Sferrazza said plowing will continue Wednesday, after which the plowed snow will be moved to several locations around the city. Snow will also be cleared from all public sidewalks, bus stops, pedestrian crossings, bike paths and multi-use paths.

Tory said snow removal crews are experiencing some difficulties due to abandoned or parked cars, and asked residents to be aware of the stricter parking rules that apply during the snow removal process.

The city reminds residents that when a major snowstorm is declared, parking on roads designated as snow routes is prohibited for 72 hours, to allow snow banks left by the city’s plows to be removed. The snow is collected and moved to designated snow storage sites.

Designated snow routes are primarily located in the city center and include all tram routes. Fines of up to $ 200 will apply, the city has warned.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, head of Toronto’s emergency services, said paramedics worked Monday with an unplanned absence of nearly 18 percent and Toronto Fire Services with an unplanned absence of 14 percent due to COVID-19 and the storm.

“Yesterday’s winter storm further challenged our on-duty staff, and I thank everyone who extended their shifts and accepted overtime,” Pegg said.

He added that Toronto Fire Services continues to respond to approximately 16 additional low-priority paramedic calls each day in situations where there is no clear indication of a patient or injury.

Pegg said emergency services are in direct communication with transport cities’ road operations managers via the emergency operations center to ensure they have “direct and timely access” to snow removal assistance.

As many as 400 TTC buses were stranded overnight by the storm. Amalgamated Transit Union 113, which represents close to 12,000 TTC workers, issued a press release on Tuesday urging TTC to establish a better service plan in the event of snowstorms.

According to the union, many workers and riders on 540 vehicles were stranded on the roads for up to 10 hours on Monday.

“TTC’s communication system was inefficient. Calls from jammed operators were left unanswered, “according to the statement.

“ATU Local 113 would like to thank the people of Toronto who brought food and water to TTC workers who were stuck in these weather conditions.”

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the public transit authority was doing its utmost to support drivers and riders.

“We have robust contingency plans, but this was a record-breaking snowfall,” Green said.

“Our staff performed heroic work under very difficult conditions to keep the system running as best we could.

“Obviously we want to look at our plan, and if there are practical ways we can improve them to deal with extreme events, we will.”

Paul Raftis, head of the Toronto Paramedic Services, said 800 emergency calls were received on Monday, which city staff said is roughly consistent with any ordinary day.

Residents can see the progress and check their street on the city plow map here.

Metrolinx announced that it would adjust the service with a reduced schedule due to the recent snowstorm, but also due to the impact Omicron has had on riders.

On a Tuesday blog posts, the transit agency said, the number of passengers fell sharply in late 2021 and will continue into 2022 and is currently only 10 to 12 percent of pre-pandemic levels. A recent 15 percent reduction in service “did not adequately address the impact of the latest wave of the virus.”

“Simply put, there are far fewer customers using GO Transit buses and trains right now, as many return to work from home, after-school students study online, and events are canceled or attendance is limited. The recent storm meant that even fewer customers climbed aboard trains and buses, “the agency said.

Transit users can check GoTransit.com for information on specific schedule changes, cancellations or travel adjustments.

With files by Maryam Shah and Ivy Mak

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering City Hall and municipal politics for Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

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