Ice and Snow

Preparing for Snow

The City’s winter weather response begins long before any snow begins to fall.

  • We stockpile 400 to 600 metric tonnes of salt and secure access of 1,200 to 1,500 metric tonnes of salt for the calendar year, amounts based on a
    five-year average usage.
  • All equipment is serviced, operating staff are refreshed on procedures, and new staff are trained on operating snow clearing equipment.
  • Road hazards are repaired or marked for plow operations.
  • Starting November 1, staff receive detailed daily weather reports for the next 48 hour period.

If snow is forecasted, crews start working up to 12 hours ahead, laying down anti-icing liquid brine and/or salt on the roads to prevent frost and ice from forming. As salt becomes ineffective on its own, in temperatures below –6º C, sand is added to the mix.

As snow begins to accumulate, the plow blades are lowered.

The City deploys various equipment to fight a snowstorm:


No. Description
4 Single-axle dump trucks with flinks and underbody plows
1 1-tonne flat deck truck with insert/brine tank
7 Tandem dump trucks with insert and plough attachments
2 1-tonne dump trucks with insert
1 Crane truck with insert
6 F550S with snow plows
1 Flusher truck (brine)
4 Mobile snow blowers
4 Backhoes
2 Front-end wheel loaders
2 Bobcat skid steers
3 Hydro excavators
2 John Deere Ride-ons with plows
1 Grader
1 Kabota with plow
1 Brine production and handling system
2 Brine applicator inserts
1,050 tonnes Salt

What to Expect From the City During A Storm

Council Policy 7013 Roadways – Ice and Snow Removal governs the City’s response to snowfall. The policy outlines the priority routes for salting, sanding and plowing and is reviewed by staff and Council regularly.

Download the policy document in PDF format:

Policy 7013 Roadways Ice & Snow Removal

See the Snow Response Route Map and for further information on priority routes.

  • First priority routes (217 km of road) are salted/sanded or cleared first. First priority routes include all bus routes and section line roads (i.e., No. 1 Road, No. 2 Road, No. 3 Road, etc.)
  • Second priority routes (22 km of road) are main collector roads through major subdivisions and industrial roadways as shown on the Snow Response Route Map.
  • Third priority routes (77 km of road) are only serviced once the first and second priority routes are cleared and under control. If conditions deteriorate, crews will cease operations on the third priority routes and re-focus resources on the first and second priority routes.

Storms do not happen between 9:00am and 5:00pm on a weekday, and neither does the City’s response. During a storm, crews begin working around the clock in two shifts, sometimes up to 14 hours a day each, and will work through weekends and statutory holidays, such as Christmas, if required.

School Property

School District #38 is responsible for clearing snow on school property.

Sidewalks and Bus Stops

The City clears the parking lots and walkways of all civic facilities, such as community centres, as well as all major transit stops, as part of the second priority phase of snow clearing response.

Industrial Commercial and Multi-Family Property

The owners or occupiers of all industrial, commercial or multi-family residential buildings must remove all snow and ice from the sidewalk, for a distance that coincides with the property line, by 10:00 a.m. every day.

Frequent Questions About Snow/Ice Control

Why doesn't the City plow all the streets?

Richmond side streets are not part of the 316 km of designated snow clearing and salting routes; to include them would require far greater resources than the City currently has, and Richmond’s typography, weather patterns and street design make that a less effective use of those resources. Typically, snow storms occur about 12 times per season and experience has shown that winter snow storms change to rain within a few hours or days.

Why don't you remove the snow you plow?

Our experience has been that typically the winter storms change to rain before snow removal is necessary. There is also significant cost, and a challenge to dispose of the snow in an environmentally friendly way.

Why does the City use salt?

Salt is used as the principal de-icer because it is the most readily available and most cost effective. The primary type used is rock salt mined from the earth. When salt is applied to ice and snow, it creates a brine solution that has a lower freezing temperature than the temperature of the surrounding ice.

In the 2009/2010 season, the City began to apply a liquid salt brine prior to a forecasted storm, which reduces the overall amount of salt used. Salt alone becomes ineffective, however, after –6°C, and sand is then added to then the mix.

When you plow, sometimes the blades don't take all the snow off the road. Why?

Most of our trucks are now equipped with rubber tip blades, allowing the blades to be lowered directly on the road surface. However, steel tipped blades must be kept slightly raised from the road surface to protect the drivers and the trucks. Hitting a manhole, for example, with a plow blade, even at slow speeds, could cause serious injury.

What are the hours of work for the sanding/salting/plowing crews?

During a storm, crews begin working around the clock in two shifts, sometimes up to 14 hours a day each. When a snowfall with significant accumulation is forecast, crews head out early to pre-salt the roads with liquid brine, which helps prevent ice from forming. At the end of a snow event, crews will resume their regular winter schedule of Monday through Friday, 7:00am to 4:30pm.

If I want to make a suggestion on this program, to whom do I address it?

You can mail your suggestion to:

City of Richmond, Roads and Construction Department

5599 Lynas Lane
Richmond, BC  V7C 5B2

or email

Heavy Rains

Typically, a snowstorm is followed by a warming trend. Often the Pineapple Express, a warm, wet, windy weather system from the southwest, will cause significant rainfall. In these cases, City crews quickly transition from clearing snow and ice to clearing drainage catch basins and mitigating flooding threats.

If heavy rains are forecast, the City will empty the drainage conveyance network—600 km of pipe—24 hours before to increase capacity. The City’s 39 drainage pump stations can pump over 78,000 litres per second. As well, crews work with the tide, accessing and cleaning screens at low tide to prevent back ups.

Richmond property owners can help by clearing snow and accumulated sand from stormwater drains near them. For more information on how you should prepare, see the Residents Guide to Winter Weather.

To view current weather and road conditions around the city, visit Greater Vancouver Traffic Conditions. Also visit the Weather Office website for forecasts and current conditions.


High Streamflow Advisories, Flood Watches or Flood Warnings will be issued by the BC River Forecast Centre.

During times of high water levels, please stay clear of fast flowing rivers and waterways, shorelines and possible unstable riverbanks.

  • River levels may rise quickly and flows may be stronger
  • Unexpected waves can occur. Keep an eye on pets and children
  • Be aware of potential increase in logs or floating debris

For emergencies, due to water/flooding, please call 911
For minor water accumulation, call the 24-hour City of Richmond Public Works Dispatch Line at 604-270-8721

Flooding terms you should know:

  • Flood Warning: River levels have exceeded capacity or will exceed it imminently, and that flooding of area adjacent to affected rivers will result.
  • Flood Watch: River levels are rising and will approach or may exceed capacity. Flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur.
  • High Streamflow Advisory: River levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, but no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible.
  • Freshet: Term used to describe spring flooding due to snowmelt and rainfall.

For current provincial flood advisories, visit Emergency Info BC

For more information on flooding preparations, visit the Emergency Preparedness.