Winter is a long and horrifying season, well unless your passions lie in skiing or snowboarding, with mounds of snow, slippery sidewalks, and the nuisance of having to scrape your windshield every morning. These are the darker sides of winter, ones that we really only have to deal with sporadically. But, could you imagine if it was your job, your duty to make sure the surrounding highways were constantly clear and safe? This is what the employees at HMC Services call their bread and butter, and a steadfast job they have been doing so far this winter.
Although the winter hasn’t been a constant snow-filled nightmare, the times that it has decided to storm have been out of the ordinary.
“The winter actually started off quite slow for us. There was snow falling at the beginning of the season, but nothing outrageous. But, since then it is has been an entirely different story,” Operation Manager for HMC Services, Greg Ehman said.
Since the recent wrath from Mother Nature, the problem has not been removing the snow and ridding the ice from our highways, the real issue has been avalanches along the highway passes.
“Regular operations have been going very smoothly for us this winter. But, the avalanche risks are a different story. Avalanche risk areas seem to be popping up all over the place. For instance, the Golden Hill; we have never had an issue with that area before, regarding avalanches. Also in Kicking Horse Canyon…the avalanche risk in the area is a one in 30-year event,” Ehman explained.
The work in the high-risk avalanche area that has to be done, takes much more time than any other area.
“Safety for us is paramount. We realize that the work needs to get done, people are depending on us, but the safety of our crews is just as important. We work as fast and as safely as we can in the high-risk areas,” Ehman said of working in avalanche areas.
The salt brine solution that HMC has been using for the first time this year has been quite successful, even though the solution cannot be used all the time.
“The brine we’ve been using, a 23 per cent salt mixture, seems to work really well for what we need. Not only does the brine stay exactly where we put it, but it also goes to work much faster than traditional rock salt. Saying that, the brine is only useful when the temperature is –6 below or warmer,” Ehman added.
As for any concern of this salt brine solution leaching its way into our water systems or any other place it does not belong, Golden should know that the use of salt on our roadways is under a strict Ministry of Environment mandate that regulates usage.
As for HMC, well…like the hit song by the Carpenters says, “We’ve only just begun…” as the winter is far from over. Besides the clear roads, we have to appreciate all the work being done by the HMC staff, who work long hours, often while we are asleep
“The crew has been doing a bang-up job so far this winter. They work long and work very hard. They know how important their jobs are,” Ehman said of his crew.
HMC will continue to be out on the highways, doing what they do best. It is the public’s duty to respect the workers. So, give them a wave when you see them out and about.
“We just ask for patience from the public when we do get hit by a storm. We want people to know that we always do the best that we can with regards to any situation and that we always work as fast as possible,” Ehman concluded.