Dave Obee: Going all out amid snow turmoil

Dave ObeeThis week has been a challenge for many, thanks to the once-a-decade snowfall.

Canada Post suspended deliveries. Schools were closed for three days. Transit service was reduced. Garbage was not picked up. And while some of our subscribers received their newspapers on time, other deliveries were delayed.

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Here’s a peek at some of the issues we faced, which might help to provide some insight into the reasons why other services were suspended or delayed as well.

Your Times Colonist is printed in Ladysmith, and the large trucks that carry it over the Malahat made it to our distribution centre in Saanich each day, more or less on time.

Smaller trucks are used to take the papers to carriers. On Tuesday, a truck serving the West Shore and Sooke could not get to the distribution centre to pick up the load. The next day, the truck serving the Saanich Peninsula did not run because of safety concerns; at the time, visibility on the Pat Bay Highway was close to zero.

Throughout the area, drivers could not get to all of their drop spots because of the snow. Piles of snow meant some drop spots could not be used. Some carriers could not get from their houses to their routes, and if they could, they had to contend with sidewalks that had not been cleared.

The temperature rose on Wednesday, but dipped below freezing on Wednesday night. The result was black ice, and that created dangerous conditions for both drivers and carriers.

Several carriers fell while making their rounds on Thursday morning, with a couple injured to the point they were unable to continue. The ones who could keep going were much more careful, which added to the time they were spending on each route.

Some side roads were still in rough shape on Thursday, and many of them were effectively reduced to a single lane. That meant there was no spot for a carrier to park, other than in someone’s driveway.

We don’t recommend that carriers do that; what if the resident needs to get in or out? Or an ambulance is blocked? So carriers park in the closest safe spot where they will not obstruct other people.

Some carriers walked for 10 minutes, with their newspapers, before they could start deliveries.

One group of drivers delivers papers to carriers, and another group delivers papers to stores. The store deliveries are often, but not always, easier, because the drivers do not have to deal with so many untended side streets.

Since Monday evening we have been encouraging subscribers to use our e-edition, which is a digital replica of the printed newspaper. (You need to sign up for that; if you haven’t done so already, please consider it.)

A heavy snowfall is one of the worst things that can happen to our delivery system, but we do our best. That includes our drivers and our carriers. In the past few days, we have seen some amazing dedication by drivers and carriers, and we appreciate that. Thank them if you get a chance.

We also appreciate your continuing support of the Times Colonist.

I firmly believe that our daily newspaper is an important part of life on Vancouver Island, and I am committed to doing everything possible to keep the Times Colonist coming to your door.

Since shifting printing to Ladysmith, a move that was essential for the continued viability of this newspaper, we have seen a remarkable string of bad luck. A couple of major power outages, two delivery vehicles written off, and so on. And now the snow.

It can’t get much worse, can it?

As I write this, more snow is in the forecast. Let’s hope it is not as bad as what we have already witnessed.

If, however, it is that bad, rest assured we will do all we can to get your newspaper to you.

Dave Obee is publisher and editor of the Times Colonist.

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