Halifax prepares for the snow to melt

The Halifax Regional Municipality continues to clean up the piles of snow that surround the streets and are now preparing for a risk of excess water once temperatures start to rise.

Halifax has been hit with 111.3cm of snow and 121.7cm of precipitation in the month of March alone, according to Environment Canada. The question now is what will happen when all that snow melts.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last week especially to open up catch basins, those are the drains, in the areas that we know always have [flooding] problems,” Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for HRM, said Wednesday.

catch basin
Cleared catch basin on the corner of Walnut street and Shirley street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

Although the amount of snow is not a record breaking amount, the impact has been overwhelming and a lot of people have been comparing it to White Juan that happened February 2004.

Snow lines the streets in heaps reaching heights of two metres or higher and once temperatures start to rise, and rain begins to fall, all that snow will turn to water, possibly swamping our streets.

“We have essentially a list of about 200 hot spots around the city where, particularly last month, we saw issues, so we wanted to make sure that those were opened up before we got any rain,” Stairs said.

According to Environment Canada, Halifax Metro and Halifax County West is expecting another 20-40 millimetres of rain over the next two days, and rising temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

Homeowner Gail tries to shovel snow onto the road before the rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)
Gail, a homeowner tries to shovel snow onto the road before heavy rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

“Knock on wood I haven’t [experienced flooding] this winter, however I expect a big rain tonight so I’m trying to get the snow on the roads so it’ll go that way down to the drain,” said Gail, a homeowner on Walnut Street in the south-end, Halifax, who didn’t want her last name published.

“We often see water on the roads at Bedford Highway. Waverley Road has some problems spots, but I mean every community has its known area,” Stairs said.

“I hesitate to use the word flooding because we’ve had issues where we’ve had deep water on some of the roads. We saw that on several occasions last month in particular and it’s happened every year. It’s not something uncommon or unusual.”

The city has been enforcing overnight parking bans on declared snow and ice days, that started Dec. 15 and will run until March 31. During the day time, police are closing off sections of roads for snow removal. Residents are being asked to help out the city with shoveling and clearing drains when possible.

The HRM has also been asking residents who know where their catch basins are located in their neighbourhood to help clear them out. It will help residents and surrounding neighbours both with the melting snow and with any rain Halifax is expecting in the next couple of days, but it’s not a task some residents are prepared to take on.

“I’m barely keeping up now with the shovelling. I would be willing to [clear catch basins] if I could get ahold of my own shovelling first,” said Gail.

In the meantime, the city continues to clear snow from the roads and sidewalks. Stairs said the city is dumping truckloads of snow in big open fields, but wouldn’t say where. Contrary to rumours, snow is not being dumped in the harbour.


Barrington Street is getting revamped

Major reconstruction plans will be taking place during the next couple years on Barrington Street, including a paved road, new sidewalks, painted street lamps, and a handful of new businesses expected to open.

Barrington Street is getting a massive facelift. Within the next couple years, it should be a clean, rehabilitated, popular destination for new communities, tourists, students and locals.

“The sidewalk will be open all the way from one end to the other for the first time in two years. That’s a huge freakin’ deal,” said Waye Mason, the regional councillor for the area.

Amidst the construction signs and machinery, there are a few significant hints indicating an evolving space.

An Urban Outfitters is expected to open in May at 1652 Barrington Street, Freak Lunchbox is expanding, the Roy Building is under construction and new office spaces just opened up between Venus Envy and the Khyber Centre.

Core Issues

It won’t be easy.

“Rebuilding downtown is an ugly, dirty business,” Mason said.

The street is in need of some basic repairs. The sidewalks are old and cracked, the signs are rusty and like Mason pointed out, the road has one of the worst surface distress conditions of any street on the peninsula.

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“It’s got certain grandeur and it’s got certain potential, but it’s got parking signs that have been put up 20 or 40 years ago and the red paint is all worn off and it just looks like nobody cares,” Mason said.

Boarded up windows and ‘for lease’ signs are common sights on Barrington Street. Many businesses haven’t been able to last a year due to high rents and poor business.

“Almost every business that’s failed on Barrington Street- not every one but almost every one- in the last decade is an analog media business. They’re book stores, camera shops, record stores, so nothing that is coming back, and it doesn’t exist anywhere anymore,” Mason said.

Prevailing businesses

A number of stores and bars are helping to keep Barrington Street alive. Venus Envy has been on the block for 16 years and has no plans to leave.

Kaleigh Trace from Venus Envy is excited to be a part of and witness the upcoming developments on Barrington Street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)
Kaleigh Trace from Venus Envy is excited to be a part of and witness the upcoming developments on Barrington Street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

“I love Barrington Street and I really want it to be as vibrant as it used to be,” said Kaleigh Trace, the education co-ordinator at Venus Envy.

Freak Lunchbox is making a significant move. The candy store is relocating to a larger location, just a couple doors down from its current spot.

“Freak continues to thrive despite some small businesses struggling – I plan to just continue on the same path of constant improvement and growth. It has been working so far,” store owner Jeremy Smith said in an email.

“More business is always better. Competition is always better and more businesses downtown bring more people downtown.  It is a win-win situation,” he said.