The Province amended Ontario Regulation 239/02, Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways to include the ability for municipalities to declare a Significant Weather Event when the weather forecast and/or actual weather conditions meet certain criteria. Formally declaring a Significant Weather Event is to alert residents to the increased risks to local travel as a result of dangerous weather conditions. The following details explains how the process will be managed moving forward.
What is a “Significant Weather Event”?
A “Significant Weather Event” (SWE) is defined as an approaching or occurring weather hazard with the potential to pose a significant danger to users of the highways within a municipality. Weather Hazards are determined by Environment Canada as meeting the criteria for the issuance of an alert under its Public Weather Alerting Program.
This declaration suspends the Maintenance Quality Standards (MQS) timelines required for our City to meet our winter maintenance objectives. This declaration will remain in place until the City formally declares the Significant Weather Event has ended. Once an event has ended, standard timelines for winter maintenance activities will begin.
Why would we need to declare a “Significant Weather Event”?
The intent of a declaration is to notify the public that due to the forecasted or current weather conditions, caution is to be exercised when travelling on the City’s sidewalks, pathways, roads and the winter cycling network, and that it will take longer than usual to restore them to the expected condition.
Is Ottawa the only city that declares “Significant Weather Events”?
Many cities and municipalities in Ontario declare “Significant Weather Events”. Under the Ontario Regulation 239/02, Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways, made under the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended, municipalities have been given the authority to declare a Significant Weather Event when a weather hazard is approaching or occurring and has the potential to pose a significant hazard to users of the highways in which the municipality has authority over.
Based on the legislation, a municipality may declare a Significant Weather Event when Environment Canada has issued an alert under its Public Weather Alerting Program. The municipality must also determine that an approaching or occurring winter event locally meets the criteria for a weather hazard, and in its judgement, also poses a significant danger to users of the highway.
How will I know the City has declared a “Significant Weather Event”?
When a Significant Weather Event has been declared, the City will:
- Inform Council
- Post a notice on Ottawa.ca/winter
- Send a PSA to media
- Provide an update on the City’s Social Media accounts including Twitter and Facebook
- Update the voice recording residents hear while calling 3-1-1 with notice of the event
- Residents do not need to speak to a call centre agent in order to hear the recording
When the event has ended, the City will also post / share the notice indicating the Significant Weather Event has been lifted using the same tools.
What should a resident do when they see the City of Ottawa has declared a “Significant Weather Event”?
The City will declare a Significant Weather Event when there is an occurring or expected weather hazard with the potential to pose a significant danger to users of our City’s sidewalks, pathways, roads and the winter cycling network. During such an event, residents are encouraged to limit travel to only essential trips outside of their home. Those who cannot are reminded to exercise caution based on the conditions of the transportation network, and to offer our snow clearing vehicles space to do their jobs.
During a Significant Weather Event, the City’s winter operations will continue. They will continue to clear and treat the sidewalks, pathways, roads and winter cycling network – they just won’t complete their work within the Maintenance Quality Standards timelines.
Residents should sign up for Winter Weather Parking Ban e-Alerts to be alerted to an upcoming parking ban. A winter weather parking ban may be called at any time during the winter, including during a Significant Weather Event.
During a Significant Weather Event, all available resources will be deployed, and the CIty will be asking residents to refrain from calling 3-1-1 or creating a service request for anything other than an emergency.
The City is hopeful that they will not need to declare a Significant Weather Event often. However, having this additional tool available will ensure that residents are always aware of the weather conditions and impacts in our City.
For any additional questions about the Significant Weather Event, please visit Ottawa.ca/winter.
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