How to Prepare for the Winter Season

With winter just around the corner, the City of Toronto is gearing up to deal with the impacts of winter – both on city streets and beneath them. The work includes managing snow and ice on city streets, and responding to the effects of cold weather on the City's water-mains and water service pipes.Cold weather and rapid swings between thaw and freezing temperatures can cause an increase in water-main breaks. Toronto Water staff are ready to respond to service calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The City is also offering tips to help residents prevent their pipes from freezing.What Happens Once it Begins to Snow? The City's first priority during a snowfall is to keep the main roads clear for emergency and TTC vehicles. After that, crews move on to the local roads and usually complete clearing those roads between 14 and 16 hours after the storm ends.As soon as the snow begins to fall, Transportation Services sends its fleet of salt trucks to the expressways and main roads. Local roads and lane-ways are salted soon after the main roads. When two centimeters of snow has accumulated, plowing begins on the expressways and, when five centimeters has accumulated, plowing begins on the main roads. Plowing on the expressways and main roads continues until the operation is complete.This winter, the City has also identified a priority network of bike lanes and cycle tracks in the downtown core that will continue to receive enhanced winter maintenance, including snow plowing and salting to improve safety for cyclists.When Should I Call 311? Local road plowing begins when the snow stops falling and if the snow accumulation reaches at least eight centimeters. During this time, as staff focus on planned snow-clearing routes, snow service requests will not be taken by 311. Residents are also asked not to call 311 during the storm to ask when their street will be plowed. Residents should call 311 only to report urgent winter-related calls in addition to other matters apart from storm response.How Can I Help with Snow-Clearing Efforts? Residents can help out this winter by doing a few things to assist with the City's snow-clearing efforts, including not pushing snow back onto the road, avoiding parking on city streets to help the plows do their work and taking public transit.When Will the City Clear the Snow on my Street? The City will only open/clear driveway windrows where it is mechanically possible to do so after eight centimetres of snow have fallen. Typically, driveway windrows are opened between one and two hours after the road being plowed. The service is meant to only open up a width of about three metres – not the full width of the driveway. This program does not take place in the central core of the city due to narrow road widths and on-street parking.The City will clear snow from sidewalks on roads with high pedestrian traffic and on bus routes where it is mechanically possible to do so after two centimetres of snow have fallen, and the remaining roads after eight centimetres have fallen. In the central core of the city, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow within 12 hours after a storm.You can learn more about sidewalk snow-clearing in Toronto and view a map of the areas where the service is provided at More information about the City of Toronto’s snow-clearing operations is available at Will our Water-mains be Protected? Cold weather is a major cause of water-main breaks but it is not the only one. The City is dealing with aging infrastructure, with the average water-main 59 years of age. To address this issue, the City of Toronto has committed $1.76 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade its water-main distribution system. More information can be found at can I Protect the Pipes in my Home? Cold weather can also cause pipes inside the home and on private property to freeze. Residents are reminded to prepare their pipes for winter by wrapping foam pipe insulation around pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, attics and garages. It is also important to seal air leaks around windows and doors, and to disconnect hoses and drain the outdoor water supply. More frozen pipe prevention tips can be found at can learn more about how to prepare for extreme weather and weatherproof their homes at

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