The saga of Dawson’s street clearances

The melting season is upon us with a vengeance, spoiling all the plans I had for a series of columns about street clearances in Dawson

On March 7, I had a lovely photo of the large piles of snow along Front Street, showing the work done by the department of highways crew, which has control over what is actually the last bit of the Klondike Highway before it runs down to the ferry landing. They were impressive little mountains that were there long enough for youngsters to discover them and clamber on them before they were loaded onto the dump trucks and taken to their final melting place.

It was a bit later that the town’s contractor began to clear the hard-packed snow off the internal streets. Above Fifth Avenue, this generally seems to take the form of ploughing it up along the sides of the streets, leaving holes for the garbage truck to be able to get at the waste bins, and clearing driveway openings where these exist.

In the downtown core, things generally get a bit confusing for a few days, between King Street and Church, north to south, and Fifth to Front, east to west. A grader loosens the surface and then turns the streets into temporary boulevards, sometimes blocking the intersections for a few hours and making driving around a bit of a puzzle for those who are out shopping.

It’s a nuisance for a few days, then they take it all away. It has to be done or the melting snow would dissolve our streets into mucky swamps. We don’t avoid that entirely, but three decades of memory tells me it could be a lot worse than it is. What is odd this year it that the windows are so small. Some years I have parked our little Yaris beside these mountains of snow to show how tall they are. They’re above the roof. This year, there would have been no point. They would not have reached the windows.

I took some pictures, but the snow piles were soon gone, leaving puddles behind them as the City of Dawson crews scrambled to thaw out the storm drains to let the water go away. A shot at the corner of Fifth and Queen just outside the school, showed the feeble remains of one clearance and the small lake it created.

It is normal for the streets to be largely cleared by the time of the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, and for a combination of city and highway workers to need to lay some loose snow on King and Front Streets to allow the race to begin there.

This year, with unseasonably warm daily temperatures, there was no hope of doing this any time but in the early hours before the 10 a.m. start time. It’s generally between -15° and -20° when the race begins. This year it was +1.5°and the conditions on the river were so iffy that the race was not able to go all the way to Eagle, Alaska.

Less than one week later, the town is all puddles everywhere you look. People have had to stop crossing the river on anything heavier than a skidoo or shank’s mare. The ice pool tripod is in the river, and people are wondering just how early to put their guesses on their IODE tickets.

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