Mayor Brian Bowman declared a state of local emergency for the City of Winnipeg to deal the unprecedented weather event which has left 2,500 residents without power, more than 30,000 trees damaged or destroyed and could cost the City well in excess of $10 million to recover from.
As well, Bowman announced that he will introduce a motion at Tuesday’s Executive Policy Committee meeting that calls on the City of Winnipeg to apply to the Province of Manitoba for disaster financial assistance (DFA).
Along with its existing powers, the City will be able to use the authority granted under the state of local emergency to gain access to private property in order to deal with public trees that have fallen onto private property, and private trees that have fallen onto public property. In addition, the state of local emergency will allow the City to acquire the additional resources required to deal with this unprecedented weather event.
“Our crews are out continuing to deal with life safety issues resulting from the (downed) trees and we want to make sure that they have the clear authority in order to do their jobs,” said Bowman.
This event has already had a significant financial impact to the City of Winnipeg, and the costs are expected to grow in the weeks ahead as City staff continue to evaluate the damage to City infrastructure, including the tree canopy. The City has already engaged external contracts to help deal with the damage to City trees, focusing their efforts on public safety concerns including trees that are in contact with hydro lines, blocking roadways, and presenting other public safety risks.
“In consultation with other cities and their Emergency Management Agencies that have experienced these types of weather events, we are pegging (the cost) in the tens of millions of dollars,” said Jason Shaw, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s assistant chief of emergency management.
“The City of Winnipeg Emergency Operations Centre remains active and the priority continues to be ensuring public safety, however efforts are shifting to recovery,” said Bowman. “Winnipeggers are incredibly resilient, and on this Thanksgiving weekend, I continue to ask you to be kind, exercise patience, and continue to check on your family, friends, and neighbours on their well being.”
The clearing of trees continues to be a significant part of City operations and the City has reached out across the country for assistance.
“Even if the additional resources and assistance comes in, it will still be many months before public spaces are cleared of all damaged trees,” said Bowman. “I just want to stress that because we want to manage expectations with our residents that this is going to take some time and a lot of resources and we’re all as Winnipeggers going to have to demonstrate a lot of patience with the cleanup that is taking place.”
It’s estimated that approximately 30,000 City-owned trees were impacted by the recent snowstorm. While all areas of the city were impacted, core areas and mature neighbourhoods have a higher risk level due to the size of the trees.
“Residents are reminded to be mindful of crews working on roadways,” said Shaw. “If a tree is blocking a roadway, or if crews are on a roadway working, please refrain from driving through the site and do not drive around them on medians or boulevards. The safety of our city crews are paramount.”
Residents are advised that if a tree is in contact with a power line, to call 911 immediately. If a tree is blocking a public right-of-way including a road or sidewalk, but isn’t touching a power line, residents are advised to call 311.
Residents are advised not to leave fallen trees or branches from private property on the public boulevard. Instead, residents are advised to bring tree and branch debris to the Brady Road Resource Management Facility or to one of the City’s 4R Winnipeg Depots to dispose of them free of charge during operating hours. These facilities will be open on the holiday Monday.
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