WHITEOUT The Columbia Valley received record amounts of snowfall over the last week that had snow removal companies working around the clock.Photo by Nicole Trigg

Communities across the Columbia Valley, East Kootenay and Interior B.C. are still shovelling their way out of one of the biggest downfalls the area has seen in the last 20 years.

Starting last Friday afternoon, snowflakes began making their way to the ground, continuing all the way until Monday morning. Although snowfall varied based on location in the Valley, Al Sander, general manager for Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting, estimates between 30 and 36 inches (76.2 to 91.44 centimetres) fell to the ground over the course of the weekend.

All I know is theres lots of snow and we have to move it and we have to find a place to put it, he said. Seeing parked cars with two feet of snow on them was not uncommonits pretty, but its ugly.

Mr. Sander said that even though the Columbia Valley dealt with a massive snowfall, areas in the Elk Valley and Cranbrook area were hit even worse. The Elk Valley received 60 centimetres of fresh snow on Monday alone, setting a record for that region, as did Castlegar and Cranbrook during the storm.

The last time a snowfall came close to last weekends whiteout was earlier in December when the Cranbrook area was hit with a large snowstorm, said Mr. Sander. Even then, it didnt require the man-hours from Mainroad that the latest storm did.

Basically, every piece of equipment was running 24 hours a day for as long as we could run it at that level and keep guys in them and keep guys safe, he said. After a day and a half or two days of that, you have to start looking at fatigue management because we have a bunch of great guys and they want to work and have the roads clear, but sometimes to their own detriment; and we have to make sure theyre safe.

For John Mason, co-owner of Balance Bobcat Services based in Windermere, similar increases in man-hours were required to ensure people were able to get to work and school.

Were looking at five guys times 16 hours a day that adds up really fast, Mr. Mason said. The people in the Valley have been super co-operative and super patient waiting for us to get there and if we cant do a stellar job like were used to doing, we make sure the people can get out and then we come back out and help them again.

In Invermere, the district put in a total of 16 man-hours between Saturday and Sunday, keeping priority roads open throughout the storm before being able to handle the snow removal better once the storm subsided on Tuesday, chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said.

Our policy is very clear in that we tackle our priority one roads when we can and theres a certain level of snow we will respond to and we will follow that policy closely and we responded to that as well, he said.

District crews spent most of Tuesday moving snow to various areas of Invermere such as Pothole Park and the Rotary Ball Fields to ensure that no flooding occurs if the weather warms up in the near future.

Were trying to make sure our storm drains are easily accessible so we can handle any potential flooding issues as well as making sure the snow wont impact any residential property, Mr. Prosser said.

As of The Pioneers publication deadline on Wednesday, February 8th, 20 to 30 centimetres were forecasted to fall in the area over the ensuing two days, which Mr. Sander, Mr. Prosser and Mr. Mason all said they were preparing for.