St. John’s crews can handle spring storms, says mayor

Bonnie Belec
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The City of St. John’s is confident the layoff of employees at the municipal depot Friday will not result in poor road conditions over the next few days when the Avalon is expected to be hit by a spring snowfall.

— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe told The Telegram this morning that every year the crew, mostly responsible for dealing with snow-related duties, are laid off around the same time.

“We did go ahead with the layoffs on Friday which was based on weather reports this week. Anything can happen with our weather, but with the crew that’s on I’m told they can handle it, ” he said.

In recent years O’Keefe said the extra crews that are hired in November have been kept on sometimes until mid-April, again based on weather reports, but this year it wasn’t deemed necessary.

O’Keefe said the number of employees has gone from 180 to 50.

The mayor said given the fact crews are no longer trucking snow and widening roads, the remainder of the employees can handle what needs to be done.

“Those operations have ceased, so the crew of 50 are on standby and available for overtime. So they’re out sanding now and they were out yesterday, and I have to say they’re doing a good job,” said O’Keefe.

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for today for St. John’s and the southwest region of the Avalon Peninsula.

Schools in the St. John’s Metro Region system were closed for the day.

According to the weather office, snow will be heavy at times and 15 centimetres is expected before the snow tapers off tonight.

A second storm is headed for the province Wednesday and continuing into Thursday.

Environment Canada describes this system as a “major winter storm” and says very strong winds and significant snowfall are expected. However, precipitation is likely to change to rain over much of the island Wednesday night as temperatures rise above freezing.

Monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at



Organizations: O’Keefe.Environment Canada, Environment Canada

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Recent comments

  • Marshall Art
    March 25, 2014 - 18:39

    Doc O'Keefe is comfy in his little cul- de -sac and he thinks all the great unwashed simply need a little cheese with their whine. And if they don't like cheese, they can eat cake. If they don't like cake, they can tell it to someone who cares.

  • Judy
    March 25, 2014 - 13:23

    Yo mama, You must be sitting at home living off us working taxpayers trying as best we can to get there through roads that are not plowed. Common sense would tell you that no matter how good a driver a person is, or what kind of vehicle he/she is driving, you just cannot drive over or through extremely high snow drifts; and that's after shovelling for an hour or so just to get out to the roads. You've made your ridiculous quote, now go back to bed and wait for your cheque later on this week from us working taxpayers.

  • Sad
    March 25, 2014 - 08:21

    It is 9:48 AM on Tuesday morning on a side street in Cowan Heights. Top half of the street had 1 cut overnight. Bottom half not done yet. Other side streets not done. Last night the AVL showed most equipment was at the depot on Blackler. Call the guys back cause what you have is not working.

  • skitzs
    March 25, 2014 - 00:12

    Geeze, they got a handle on this? Im currently pregnant, had several appts today, out driving in this and in all the hours i was out i did not see a single plow, not even on the main drags, am i ever glad i had a 4wd. How is this feasible? Wednesday is only gonna be worse. The sidewalks my way have not been touched all winter, tons of kids here, heck my son has to stand in the road close to a turn to get the school bus since the beginning of winter, so tell me again how this makes sense. I had a friend who had her husbands car hit not once but twice today less than 2 hours apart while he was at work downtown, it was parked on the road due to cars slipping and sliding because of the condition of the roads, and they got it under control? They f**ked up. End of story

  • Sad
    March 24, 2014 - 21:29

    It is Monday night 10:54 PM on a side street in Cowan Heights and I still haven't seen a plow. In past years the street would be plowed in the morning, sometimes before I left for work. Lately it doesn't get done til 3-4 in the afternoon, and Doc thinks this is good?????

  • Corporate Psycho
    March 24, 2014 - 21:06

    You get what you vote for.

  • Art
    March 24, 2014 - 20:22

    Remember people, Management make the call Not the workers.

  • bill hickey
    March 24, 2014 - 19:56

    utterly ridiculous

  • bill hickey
    March 24, 2014 - 19:55

    utterly ridiculous

  • Yo mama
    March 24, 2014 - 18:14

    If all you fools knew how to drive, storms wouldn't be a problem.

  • Tired of Winter
    March 24, 2014 - 17:52

    the Mayor says he thinks they're doing a good job. The state of our streets this evening doesn't support that statement. I guees the skeleton crew that is left is doing the best job they can..more than what I can say for the Mayor.

  • sc
    March 24, 2014 - 17:42

    So let me get this straight. Our mayor sits down, sees the forecast is for 2 storms this week (1 of them considered to be a very major one), and then decides to lay off 72% of the workers responsible for clearing the roads and sidewalks (as if that's ever been considered important in this city). I wonder how bad the forecast would have had to be to keep the workers employed. Five storms each dropping1 meter of snow? Would that have been sufficient? The longer I live here the more convinced I am that this city council should just admit that it has no idea how to run a city. At least then we wouldn't expect some degree of competence.

  • ruffroad
    March 24, 2014 - 17:17

    Maybe on the mayor,s street , but not on |Barachois Street were the people who live here have to dodge traffic every day, because own roads and sidewalks are not cleared. It was that bad on this street , we only get mail, once or twice every week or two. and with people double parked, its down to one narrow lane . great work , I hope your not counting on my vote.

  • Randy Dawe
    March 24, 2014 - 17:02

    Our street close to two schools was on the list to have a sidewalk cleared for the children walking to school, still waiting to have it done once . At the end of my driveway , a visitor can park their car;the snow bank is that far out into the street..

  • Rob Ford would not say this
    March 24, 2014 - 15:25

    Is there a polite word to describe this sort of statement ? I can't seem to think of anything that doesn't question this man's qualifications for the office of Mayor.

  • Dee
    March 24, 2014 - 14:23

    I don't know where the mayors head is but certainly it's not in the fog,Mr Okeefe we still don have sidewalks cleared from Nov. And you are saying your staff has a handle on it,maybe by your house it's clear and maybe Mackey has a nice clear street. we don't

  • T
    March 24, 2014 - 14:21

    Just think of all the OT that mgmt and the senior workers will now get......that is what it is all about......what can I get????? Lets hope that the 13 of the 14 blowers that were broke down when the staff was on, will be fixed for all the senior magicians that are left to do the job.

  • Saucy Face
    March 24, 2014 - 14:10

    Really Mr. Mayor? The 180 couldn't do the job, how do you expect 50 to handle it? Then again, it can't be any worse I suppose.

  • Avalon Woman
    March 24, 2014 - 14:03

    See what Doc has done. He lays off the crew 130 men and leaves 50, even after looking at the forcast for this week.(Monday 10-15 cms Wednesday 30+ ) and our roads are supposed to be maintained with a skelton crew.No wonder the schools were closed today. I'd say close the city, not going to be fit on the roads. The extra money saved fills up councils pockets I suppose.Way to go Doc, I'd say a lot of people are going to need Doctors after these storms.

  • Justin
    March 24, 2014 - 12:59

    This is a horrendously stupid idea, and I'm baffled how anyone could have come up with it. When you recently announce you're getting an independent study done to figure out how to improve snow clearing (meaning you acknowledge that you're doing a bad job of it), having LESS snow clearing is just bizarre. For the record--if you start putting SAND down on the roads when snow STARTS, you'll have less people going off the road, can plough down to asphalt easier, and then salt is good for the added support. The stupid brine isn't working. I don't care if sand looks dirty--less people will go off the road. PUT DOWN SOME GRIT!

  • Bumpy Rhodes
    March 24, 2014 - 12:40

    How about keeping 5 of them on for 2-3 more week just to fix the insane potholes in the city? Based on the massive creator I hit this morning on KENMOUNT Rd (not like it's a side street or anything), this is urgently needed. Come on City council, get it together, the roads are a shambles!

  • Jim Raines
    March 24, 2014 - 12:22

    Whatever keeps my taxes down I'm all for. People seem to forget the big bill that the snowclearing brings with it. It's one of the biggest expenditures in the budget and it's a problem that will over a day or two fix itself.

    • Justin
      March 24, 2014 - 14:09

      Right--it's not your car that's sliding around or going off the road, so what do you care? It wouldn't cost so much if it was done right in the first place--so rather than playing cheapskate, perhaps you can recognize that what the city needs is more important than your personal pocketbook.

  • Mary
    March 24, 2014 - 11:47

    Doesn't make sense,extra crew are usually kept on until mid April,did we not just have the worst winter in years,with some of the WORST snow clearing,and he lays them off, mid March. AND more snow to come.

  • Mary
    March 24, 2014 - 11:45

    Doesn't make sense,extra crew are usually kept on until mid April,did we not just have the worst winter in years,with some of the WORST snow clearing,and he lays them off, mid March. AND more snow to come.

  • Steve
    March 24, 2014 - 11:26

    "St. John’s crews can handle spring storms, says mayor" St. John's snow clearing/removal plan--rain. There must be a lot of rain tomorrow.

  • santo
    March 24, 2014 - 11:17

    Nooo, no problem, a double weather bomb... 50 snow plow operators, should be sufficient! NOT!!! Come on, they could hardly keep up with it when there were 180!!! Seriously, SERIOUSLY!! This is our safety we are talking about here, we still have to go to work, but there will be no roads cleared, I drove home many times without the streets cleared, and there were 180 workers then! So what and how are we to commute in the snow and blowing snow that will surely be swirling in the over 100 km winds that are being forecast. If I beat up my car and myself due to the road conditions because I'll have to go to work, can I claim it to the city? after all, isn't it negligence to not offer snow clearing for the tax payers of this city? Heck, this is Newfoundland after all! Lay off snow plow operators before the storms are over,,,sheeesh,

    • margie
      March 24, 2014 - 12:31

      I so agree with you. They couldn't handle the winter alone the spring.. What a laugh.. Time for you to Go Doc. No good from the beginning, why so many of us fools vote for you, I have no idea. .I sure will Remember this winter...

    • margie
      March 24, 2014 - 12:33

      I so agree with you. They couldn't handle the winter alone the spring.. What a laugh.. Time for you to Go Doc. No good from the beginning, why so many of us fools vote for you, I have no idea. .I sure will Remember this winter...

  • Guy Incognito
    March 24, 2014 - 10:48

    * start sarcasm* If "Snow Bank" O'Keefe says there won't be a problem, then there won't be a problem. Look at the great job the city has done so far this year. It doesn't matter if they laid off %72 of your snow clearing staff. I'm sure everything will be fine when the massive storm hits on Wednesday, the same way it has been fine all winter. In conclusion, I think you are a great leader, you should continue to arbitrarily enforce building and development rules, you should continue to allow the unchecked development of downtown (especially the restaurants blocking the stupid waterfront), our barely there bike lanes are the envy of the developed world, and the harbor fence is awesome!! *end sarcasm*