MONTREAL - With snow already on the ground, as many as 20 cm more on the way through Tuesday, and Montrealers lined up at garages around town to get their winter tires installed, the city of Montreal unveiled its strategy to deal with what's shaping up to be an epic winter season.

It was 36 years ago when Montreal had its earliest snow clearing operation on record, on Nov. 16, 1983. This year, we could beat that early record -- and the city is gearing up in preparation.

Crews contracted to do salting and snow clearing weren't working yet, said executive committee member Jean-Francois Parenteau, who oversees the city's snow-clearing efforts.

"All the contracts for the city of Montreal, they start after November the 15th," he said. 

There are small crews in place for Monday and Tuesday night, but it could still be a tough go.

If your car still has summer tires, take public transit, said Mayor Valerie Plante.

"I know it's not easy to ask but ultimately for your own security and for everyone's security, take the bus, take the subway," she said.

New equipment and approach

New this year will be 33 additional salting trucks and 15 new weather stations that will bring to 25 the number of such stations that the city uses to monitor weather conditions across the city and deploy resources accordingly.

Montreal's boroughs this year will also be permitted to perform two additional snow clearing operations, above and beyond the ones ordered by the central city. Boroughs have also received extra funding to sign deals with local organizations to ensure that private entrances and walkways for people with reduced mobility are cleared efficiently.

"Our administration is very conscious of the challenges presented by winter, which has started early this year," Plante said at a press conference Monday. "The climate crisis brings with it many changes to the way we deploy our operations on the ground. Thats's why we actively studied that issue following last winter and why we are using new resources and approaches this year that will allow us to ensure the safety of our road network for all citizens."

The city said 3,000 workers will be deployed to keep the city's 6,500 km of sidewalks and 4,100 km of roads safe and clear this season -- although the labour shortage means contractors are having a hard time finding workers who want to put in long hours clearing snow.

Parenteau said the new equipment and approach will allow the city to be more agile in maintaining safe streets and sidewalks, and that it will adjust its stretegy in real-time as circumstances warrant.

The city has increased its budget for snow removal yp $166 million, a $3 million increase, but opposition leader Lionel Perez argued that's still not enough.

"Each snow operation costs about $20 million, so to add $3 million is nothing more than a snowflake in the bucket," he said. 

In its first two winters in power, the Plante administration has been the recipient of widespread criticism over the city's clearing of streets and sidewalks, clashing with some boroughs over snow-clearing efforts and when to deploy them, at what threshold and how many resources to deploy.

Last winter, see-sawing temperatures and an inordinate amount of rain led to a particularily bumpy winter in terms of clearing the city's roads and sidewalks.

The city had struck a special committee to study how it should manage its snow clearing in light of climate change.