A new winter weather committee is being created in light of last year’s severe winter storm.
At Perth County Council's Thursday meeting, council was presented with a report on the county’s reaction to the significant weather event declared on Dec. 23.
Rick Fraser, community emergency management coordinator for the county, presented the report. He highlighted the difficulty of the storm, given the time of year it occurred.
“Had this happened this weekend, we wouldn’t have had any issues in regard to people travelling on roads, people not adhering to our warnings.” he told council. “It happened during the Christmas break. People were wanting to travel and there was very little we could do to stop that travel.”
In the week of Dec. 19, Environment Canada advised of a major winter weather event expected to hit much of southern Ontario over the holidays. They warned of blizzards, strong winds, rapidly falling temperatures, and near-zero visibility.
As forecast, the weather event began on Dec. 23 and carried into Dec. 28.
The report presented to council covered the road information communications relayed by the county. As Fraser summarized, there needs to be better communication between the different institutions: OPP, the county, and the municipalities within the county (Stratford and St. Marys included).
To that end, Fraser said that he has started working with the OPP on a winter weather committee that will be struck up this autumn.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we got equipment put together, that we can talk early on, talk about who’s at the table, who we need to bring to the table.”
The committee will include, at minimum, a media tool-kit for pre-scripted messaging, public education elements to advise communities about significant weather events, and the drafting of procedures for all municipalities.
A key insight from the report was the importance of posting information on their social media. Over the course of the event, the county’s website and social media pages saw a significant rise in traffic.
A few other possible changes were suggested, including investigating having a 'significant weather' landing page on their website to work with or replace the road conditions landing page. It could be used to better educate the public.
From a public works perspective, John McClelland, director of public works, said that it is a lot easier to close roads than it is to open them after the weather event has finished.
“That’s one thing with this event that we certainly noticed, recognized, and perhaps need to do better in the future,” McClelland said.
The report noted that during the course of the storm, staff at the county, lower-tiers, and partner municipalities worked diligently to ensure the safety of Perth County residents.