Halifax streets in a hole lot of trouble

As spring arrives, Haligonians are facing an entirely new obstacle on the road.

Halifax has had a late-blooming winter this year and as a result, spring has been postponed indefinitely. Two snowstorms in the middle of March had the city reverting back to a White Juan mentality and reminiscing about simpler, snowless December days. On the plus side, it’s supposed to be 10 degrees on Monday.

As the snow finally begins to melt and layers of ice that have covered the streets since mid-January begin to disappear, Haligonians find themselves facing an entirely new problem — potholes.

The Halifax Regional Municipality website says potholes form when the topmost layer of a street’s asphalt wears away, leaving a sizeable gap to the rest of the asphalt underneath. They tend to pop up near the end of winter and beginning of spring, after the pavement has spent a few months in a freeze/thaw cycle. These dents in the road can be hard to spot and are often unavoidable unless the driver swerves into an oncoming lane.

Like the thick layers of uneven, pavement-warping ice that came before them, potholes have been wreaking havoc on vehicles in the city.

Car trouble

Anna Cormier has seen what potholes can do to a car first-hand. While driving in Halifax, Cormier and a friend hit a pothole off Barrington Street, near Casino Nova Scotia.

“Immediately the air was gone from her tire,” Cormier writes in a Facebook message. “We quickly pulled over and luckily her girlfriend was with us and she knew how to change a tire. So she put on the spare, and everything worked out.”

Other drivers have not been so lucky. In some cases, they haven’t had a spare tire and in others, the damage has been more severe. A new winter tire can cost upwards of $100, depending on the brand and type of car it’s made for.

HRM crews at work

Street crews dispatched by the city are working to remedy the city’s poor road conditions. In 2011, municipal operations acquired an asphalt recycler. The tool gives workers easier access to hot asphalt, which had not been the case during winter months in previous years. Hot asphalt allows for street repairs to be made that are less likely to break up over time.

HRM says pothole repairs are prioritized according to the volume of traffic on a street. Potholes on main streets (such as Agricola, Barrington, Oxford and Robie) that are more than eight centimetres deep are the highest priority. The city aims to fix them within seven business days. The same size potholes on local roads are supposed to be fixed within 30 business days. Potholes less than eight centimetres deep are attended to “as resources permit.”

Concerned city-goers can report potholes via a 311 online service request on the city’s website.

In the meantime, Haligonians can take comfort in the fact that potholes, at least, are a sign of spring.

Coping with seasonal affective disorder this winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a less severe depression, when the change of season and light exposure influence people’s moods and energy.

This winter in Halifax has been one of the worst the city has seen in years. Winter has been tougher this year with the multiple severe storms that have been called worse than White Juan in 2004.

More people have been stuck inside and have had to deal with snow and ice making it harder to move around the city.

It is understandable that Haligonians would be feeling a little under the weather due to the circumstances that they have been facing.

But what is the difference between being under the weather and having seasonal affective disorder?

What is seasonal affective disorder?

 Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens during a season, usually winter, and lasts until the end of that particular season.

Approximately two to six per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their life, according to Mood Disorders Association of Ontario.

 

The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)
The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)

“Seasonal affective disorder is related to light levels. In winter the days are shorter, people are more confined inside and they suffer from lack of light,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, a professor at Dalhousie University in the psychiatry department.

It can be seen as a type of hibernation response where people are more likely to sleep in longer and be less active, but they also have signs of depression, says Morehouse.

Seasonal affective disorder is not as severe as depression and it rarely becomes a pathological depression.

What are some signs and symptoms?

 Seasonal affective disorder deals with people’s moods. Most people will start feeling sad or grumpy and have a lack of interest in doing their usual activities.

“Most people get impatient when normally they are not like that, and they are not wanting to get out of bed or do activities, you just have to know yourself and identify a change,” says Morehouse.

It has been shown that women are more affected by this disorder than men, but anyone can become vulnerable to the disorder.

“Starting around October when days start to get shorter is when people can start feeling the affects of the disorder,” says Morehouse.

In most cases people will start feeling better in March when days are longer and there are signs of spring.

“This year it might be delayed because people will still be stuck inside with the snow, but I have not seen more cases because of the bad weather,” says Morehouse.

What are treatment options?

 “Treating it involves giving people more light or they can be given antidepressants,” says Morehouse.

There are two options for getting enough light; people can either go outside or be exposed to a light fixture that is around 5,000 to 10,000 lux for around 30 minutes per day in order to receive enough light.

“The best advice is to get out, get active and get light,” says Morehouse.

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.

 

News Digest: March 23 – 26

Catch up on happenings on the Halifax peninsula, as reported by other news outlets.

Trouble Inmate sets herself ablaze at Truro prison (Chronicle Herald)

A women, unofficially identified as Camille Strickland-Murphy of St. John’s, set herself on fire at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro. Strickland-Murphy suffered second degree burns. In November, she was sentenced to 36 months in prison for attempted robbery and breach of probation. According to an anonymous source, the women stuffed her pant legs with paper and using a match or an outlet started the fire. Pamela Goulding, a provincial court judge, said Strickland-Murphy suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. She also has a history of alcohol and drug abuse.

Whalen on N.S budget: Prepare to ‘feel some pain’ (Chronicle Herald)

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Diana Whalen delivered a warning about the upcoming provincial budget. She said the new budget will change the way government does business, including a complete review of department and services in order to cut back. Whalen also announced that the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency would become a Crown corporation led by a private-sector board.

NSCC hikes tuition by three per cent in most programs (Metro News)

On Thursday, Nova Scotia Community College announced that it would raise 2015-16 tuition rates by three per cent for most programs. A three per cent increase, for most students, adds up to an extra $90 in annual tuition costs. Tuition costs for the following programs will not go up: recording arts, health information management, certified welding, gas technician, heavy equipment operator, process operations 4th class, and aviation programs.

Halifax company says industrial snow melters could have conquered Old Man Winter (CTV News Atlantic)

A Halifax company said it has equipment to melt snow. Trecan Combustion builds industrial sized machines to melt snow faster and more efficiently than hauling it away. After the snow is loaded, it is melted in the machine and is driven over a manhole where the water empties into a sewer. Industrial snow melters are currently used at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and the Halifax Shopping Centre. Halifax Regional Municipality considered using the machines, but ultimately found that they would not be worth the time or money due to high diesel costs.

Assault charges dropped against N.S woman with brain disorder (CTV Atlantic News)

Three charges against a women with an intellectual disability have been dropped. According to police, Nichele Benn allegedly struck an employee with a foam letter and a shoe at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre on Dec. 12, 2013. The Crown decided not to proceed with charges of assault with a weapon.

What you should know before running in the winter

Five tips all runners, new or experienced, should follow before braving the cold and dangerous weather of the winter months.

 

While some Halifax citizens are complaining about the icy sidewalks, many runners maintain their physical activity despite sidewalk conditions.

For some runners, the winter months become daunting. They turn to crowded gyms and at home workouts in order to continue staying in shape during the winter. However, while snow and ice pose a threat to running outside, it is still possible to tackle those obstacles without changing your routine to fit the weather.

1. Running for beginners

According to Running Room, someone who is new to running should start slow. The first few times they go outside they should start by fast-walking. This allows for the new runner to build up their endurance.

Instead of going out and running as fast as you can for as long as you can, which could result in injury if the runner pushes themselves too far, it is much safer to start slow.

The best thing to do is to gradually increase the ratio of walking to running each time. It is best to start by walking for two minutes and running for one minute, then the next day, walk two minutes and run two minutes – always increasing the time and distance.

According to Andrew Moser, a student at the University of King’s College and avid runner all year around, joggers should also do specific exercises to increase the strength in your ankles.

Moser’s mother is a physiotherapist who taught him most of what he knows about muscles and how they help with running – especially on slippery and icy sidewalks.

“She would always talk about stabilizers, which are basically muscles that do the correcting for you when you are trying to balance [on the ice],” says Moser. “Already being a good runner helps, but you can start on the treadmill, or do simple balancing exercises like standing on one foot to strengthen your ankles.”

2. Thinking about tackling the ice?

After training to become a stronger runner and building up endurance, runners might be tempted to run outside all year around. However, before doing so, the runner must know a few tips for making sure they do not fall on the ice.

According to Moser, anyone who is planning to run during the winter months should:

  1. Pay attention to where you are running. If you see any shiny patches, chances are it is ice and you should slow down and shorten your stride.
  2. When turning corners, you should also slow down and shorten your stride so that you do not lose your balance.

According to Running Room runners may also feel soreness after running in the snow and ice. This is because your stabilizers are working harder to keep you from slipping.

3. Clothing

Moser thinks that there is a lot of value in getting athletic gear that is more expensive because it will last a few years, and you know what you are buying is good quality. He recognizes that not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on running gear, and suggests that anyone can buy leggings or sweat pants from Winners.

Moser also acknowledges that it is best for new runners who are not sure how much they will be running, or if they will stick with it, to look for cheaper versions of athletic clothing at places like Winners. As they become more committed, it can be justified to spend more money on longer lasting gear.

Running Room suggests that runners who will be running in the colder months cover up any exposed skin like: your neck, hands, faces and heads. You can do this with scarves, hats, gloves and ski-masks.

Running Room also suggests that, because days in the winter months are shorter and it gets dark much faster, a runner should make sure that they wear bright clothing or running gear with reflective stripes so that drivers will be able to see them in the dark.

4. Tips for running in the cold

According to Running Competitor, it is best to start off your run by running into the wind, then half way through the run you should switch it up and run with the wind at your back. Running Competitor explains that if you run with the wind at your back first, you will work up a sweat. Then when you change direction, the cold wind against your face will cause sweat to freeze.

Running Competitor also suggests that runners use Vaseline on any exposed skin that cannot be covered. Vaseline has waterproof and windproof properties that will protect your skin from frostbite

They also stress the importance on keeping hydrated during and after a run because you sweat just as much while running in the winter as you do in the warmer months – even if it does not feel that way.

Moser also suggests that any runner, experienced or new, should definitely take it easy on hills. Although the hills make for a great workout, they can become very dangerous during the winter months when they are covered in ice, snow or slush. He says that it is better to run slow and keep your balance, than to run fast and hurt yourself.

5. Alternatives

Moser says his girlfriend is starting to get into running as well, but she’s not experienced enough to go out and tackle the snow, ice and slush that covers the ground. Instead, during the winter months, she likes to go on Youtube and look up workout videos which are posted by fitness gurus.

Some alternatives to running in the winter are:

  1. Going to the gym
  2. Walking
  3. Yoga/ Hot Yoga
  4. Fitness classes
  5. Online workout videos

HRM prepares for changes to curbside garbage collection

Halifax Regional Municipality spreads the word about changes to curb side garbage collection and enforcing the use of clear garbage bags for residences beginning in August.

The Halifax Regional Municipality spreads the word about changes to curbside garbage collection to enforce the use of clear garbage bags for residences on Aug. 1.

Single-unit residents will be required to place their garbage in a maximum of six clear garbage bags, only one of which can be black or private.

For multi-unit buildings a maximum of four clear garbage bags may be placed on the curb for pickup. Of those four only one can be black.

Garbage bags will still be able to be placed in standard sized garbage cans for storage and privacy.

Matthew Keliher, acting manager of Halifax’s solid waste division, said HRM is in the process of a public education campaign using print, radio, and digital advertising.

“Over 140,000 residences have been mailed pamphlets explaining what’s new and when it will take effect,” he said.

The decision to switch to clear bags was done to improve the accuracy of garbage pickup, Keliher said. “When curbside garbage is picked up, garbage collectors can see what items are being thrown away and prevent the disposal of any banned items.”

Shannon Betts, a waste resource analyst for HRM, said that the use of clear garbage bags would also promote proper recycling habits.

“Waste audits conducted over the past few years show that approximately half of the material arriving at our landfill should have been recycled or composted,” said Betts.

As a part of the public education campaign, retail outlets are in the process of changing their stock to include a variety of clear bags. There has been a six-month advanced notice of the changes, and Halifax solid waste staff has been working closely with bag manufacturers.

Keliher said residents would be responsible for proper sorting of garbage. “Items that don’t belong will be ticketed and not taken by garbage collectors,” he said.