Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Winter Weather Has Arrived, and a New Municipal Policy Will Keep Residents Better Informed During Stormy Weather

With the first round of snow squalls to hit us this season, the Municipality of Meaford was able to test their recently implemented ‘Significant Weather Event’ policy. I saw some confusion, along with some scoffing on social media, with some making an assumption that such a declaration meant that the municipality had ceased road clearing operations until the squalls were over, but nothing could be further from the truth.

As I wrote in the November 16 3Rs…Rants, Raves & Rumours column in our print newspaper, this municipality has finally joined the ‘Significant Weather Event Declaration’ party, as though such a declaration might be new for Meaford residents to see, as a reporter in Grey County, I have been receiving these declarations from our neighbouring municipalities for a number of years, and I was pleased that earlier this month Meaford’s council voted to approve the implementation of such a policy for this municipality.

As I wrote in our print newspaper on November 16, “This week, Meaford’s council gave final approval to the implementation of a ‘Significant Weather Event’ policy, a move that is long overdue, and will result in improved communication with residents when major weather events happen. Though some are bound to make a big deal of it, and there will no doubt be conspiracies about reduced service, the reality is that the Municipality of Meaford is late to the party in establishing such a policy. For several years over the winter months I have regularly received press releases from other municipalities in the county notifying of a significant weather event, and explaining the level of service one can expect during the weather event.”

For more than five years I have been receiving these weather event declarations from the City of Owen Sound, the Township of Georgian Bluffs, the Town of the Blue Mountains, among others, so it is a well-established tool that has been put to good use by most of our neighbours for a number of years.

The sole purpose of a significant weather event policy is to ensure that residents are informed when nasty weather has arrived, or is on the way.

As I wrote in our November 16 newspaper, significant weather event policies are fantastic tools for communicating with the general public. When a storm hits, Meaford residents are often wondering where the plows are, if it is safe to head out on the roads, and so on, but residents in communities with significant weather event policies are informed at the beginning of such a weather event, and they are informed when the weather event is over.

The significant weather event notices that I have received from other municipalities over the years (since roughly 2018) have informed that severe weather conditions have begun, they have noted that anyone heading out should exercise caution, stated that due to the significant weather it might take longer for municipal crews to clear the snow and ice, they advise residents to only travel if absolutely necessary, and they typically provide links to related municipal policies.

When the weather event is over, a second notice is issued, which informs residents that the storm is over, the municipal crews are caught up, and it is safe to venture out. From my perspective, it is great communication of important information, and I am glad that Meaford has finally adopted such a policy of its own.

As was explained by staff in their report to council earlier this month, “The Municipality of Meaford is responsible for the safety and well-being of all residents during significant weather events. The creation of this policy helps provide guidelines to be followed to minimize risks, ensure efficient response and communication with the public as well as maintaining essential services during adverse weather conditions.”

While some I saw on social media earlier this week were suggesting that the significant weather event declaration issued on Monday was ‘nonsense’ given the minor nature of the squalls that were both forecast and experienced, or a ‘waste of taxpayer dollars’, or worse still ‘an excuse to avoid plowing roads’, as was noted in the report to council earlier this month, “The declaration of a significant weather event is not a notice of reduced service levels or road closures. It is to notify the public that due to the forecasted or current weather conditions, extra caution is to be utilized while travelling along municipal roadways and sidewalks, and that it may take longer than usual to restore these surfaces to their repaired state.”

The issuing of a significant weather event declaration isn’t notice that a storm of the century is approaching, it is a notice to residents that some nasty weather is either on the way, or is already underway, and it reminds residents to be cautious if they are venturing outdoors, and it advises residents of the status of municipal roads.

So while some were scoffing on Monday, I was pleased to finally see the Municipality of Meaford among the significant weather event notices I received from the County of Grey, the City of Owen Sound, the Township of Georgian Bluffs, among others.

From my perspective anything that improves communication and that dispels rumours or assumptions is a good thing, and I am happy to see that the Municipality of Meaford has finally joined other municipalities in establishing a significant weather event policy, as it will allow Meaford residents to be better informed during major storms, and it should help to alleviate some of the frustrations and uncertainty that tend to come with those major storm events.

Winter weather has arrived, be safe on the roads and sidewalks!

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