Yellowknife snow clearing provokes pandemic parking panic

“I woke up, I pulled out the curtains to the front window, and it was an Ashton Kutcher, ‘Dude, where’s my car?’ moment.”

Cheryl McKay had been indoors with her family in uptown Yellowknife for days. With a pandemic going on outside, she was happy to follow government advice and stay at home.

Her husband, working one week on and one week off during the pandemic, was home too. The couple and their two kids never gave a thought to leaving the house, McKay said.


Until Wednesday, when she opened the curtains to find her vehicle gone.

“And then, of course, I saw the mountain of snow in the middle of the road. They had ploughed the night before,” McKay continued.

“I asked my husband, ‘Did you move the car last night?’

“I said, ‘I’m pretty sure we’ve been towed.'”

Retrieving their vehicle cost the family $250 at the pound plus a $50 ticket. McKay says that’s money the family had hoped not to lose with their finances as precarious as anyone else’s during the Covid-19 pandemic.


“Right now,” she said, “when we’re trying to prepare for financial hardship, it’s a little bit worrisome, right?”

‘Check your road for signs’

Snow clearing probably won’t be a problem for any other family, at least in the short term. The City of Yellowknife has cancelled planned snow removal this coming week as the temperature warms up. There’s always a chance clearing may have to be restarted if late April brings any fresh dumps of snow.

Meanwhile, McKay wrote to City Hall and the mayor, Rebecca Alty, for answers.

Alty, responding, said residents should be checking the City’s website and Facebook page or listening to radio station Moose FM, where the City advertises, for the weekly snow removal schedule.


“Or go out once a day and check your road for signs,” Alty added.

McKay thinks snow clearing schedules are unlikely to have been top-of-mind for residents this month, including hundreds in isolation for weeks at a time.

“I just feel it’s not business as usual right now. The way they were handling the snow removal wasn’t really in line with the whole staying-home, avoiding going out as much as possible,” she said.

“I felt like I was being blamed because I ought to have known – when, really, every other City operation and facility I rely on is closed.”

Mayor links towing refund to taxes

Alty, in a separate email to Cabin Radio, accepted the past month has been “a challenging time for residents on many fronts.”

The mayor said council had received requests to waive a number of different fees and charges, including towing fees like those passed on to McKay.

Alty said if McKay requested that the City refund her towing fee, she was really asking taxpayers to do so.

“For each request to waive fees or charges that we get, we have to determine whether the individual should pay or whether we all should collectively pitch in and pay,” Alty wrote.

“When residents request that the City pay for their towing bill, they’re really requesting that taxes – money collected by the City from all residents – pay the bill.”

Alty said she and councillors can’t waive those fees, and McKay and family are out of luck.

The City’s website states streets selected for snow removal will be advertised on radio and through signs placed 24 hours before removal, which begins at midnight and runs until the early morning.

“Residents must ensure parked vehicles are removed by midnight of the scheduled day or they will be removed (towed),” the website notes.