'We're hacking away' - municipal works in a fight against ice

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A sidewalk is cleared of snow by a machine.

CORNWALL, Ontario - The city's municipal works department is fighting to clear sidewalks and snowbanks throughout Cornwall, thanks to successive days of snow, ice and alternating temperatures.

Many Cornwall sidewalks remain closed - caked in multiple layers of ice and snow - and some city intersections have become dangerous with massive snowbanks blocking the view for motorists inching forward.

Bill de Wit, the city's manager of municipal works, said in an interview the progress to clear the snowbanks and sidewalks - which are now hard as a rock thanks to a quick thaw that was followed by a temperature plunge - has been slow.

"We're hacking away," he said of sidewalks in particular. "It's been difficult to get the machine to drive into the snow.

"Sidewalk clearing has been delayed."

Anyone in Cornwall who has attempted to clear snow and ice from their driveway - whether by hand or with a machine - knows the frustrating feeling of seeing the blade of their apparatus ride up onto the ice, instead of digging into it.

In some cases the city's fleet of sidewalk clearing machines have suffered damage while trying to clear the iced-over sidewalks.

"We need people to be patient, we are coming," said de Wit.

The city has been sending crews out during the day and at night to clear sidewalks and snowbanks.

De Wit said the city starts at "more sensitive" areas, with heavier traffic, before moving out to smaller side streets and the like.

"Unfortunately it's just a typical Canadian winter," he said.

De Wit would not put a timeline on any snowbank/sidewalk clearing, thanks to the unpredictable nature of the work.

Geographic location: CORNWALL, Ontario

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