What the deuce ever happened to snow fences?

snow fence

Remember this? It seems to me that if some snow fencing like in this photo had been in place in the fields of rural Hastings County today, driving would have been a whole lot better than it was. (Photo by Jan Staller via wfmu.org)

Today was a thoroughly awful winter-weather day – particularly awful if one had to drive in it, which I did. Now, I was well-taught about winter driving by my father, who was a very good driver. What I learned from him was simple but effective: drive slowly and carefully, have snow tires on your car, and be constantly aware that any other driver on the road may do something dumb or lose control of his/her vehicle at any moment. Those rules have stood me in very good stead through all manner of poor driving conditions, and it therefore takes a lot to scare me about winter driving. But today scared me.

The problem was blowing snow: it has snowed an enormous amount lately, including through the night last night, and this morning’s high winds were blowing snow all over the road. On my southerly drive to Belleville from the Manse in Queensborough, down normally well-maintained Highway 62, there were some really scary whiteout conditions combined with patches of quite deep snow on the blacktop. Nasty nasty nasty.

As I grimly made my way through it (safely, I am happy to add), I found myself wondering this: What on earth ever became of snow fences?

When I was a kid growing up at the Manse, you saw snow fencing everywhere: it ran parallel to the roadway, maybe 10 or 20 feet inside the regular fenceline, in all the farm fields. As I understand it, the role of this fencing (which I believe was removed once winter ended) was to prevent, or at least ameliorate, the miserable road conditions that I and many others endured today.

It wasn’t what you’d call attractive, that snow fencing – in fact I recall thinking, as a kid looking out the bus windows on the way to and from school, that it was particularly unattractive – but if it helped keep snow off the roads, what matter?

So why doesn’t anybody use snow fencing anymore? The problem areas on Highway 62 this morning were along sections where there were wide open farm fields alongside the highway, and the snow whipping unimpeded across those fields and into the pathway of the vehicles was quite something to see – impressive, if you didn’t have to deal with the fallout from behind the wheel.

Doubtless it was a pain in the neck for farmers to put the snow fence out every fall and take it in again in the spring. But they did it, God bless them. Why not now? Were there once regulations requiring it that are no longer in place?

What’s the story here, people? I know that at least some of you must know. Please share!

18 thoughts on “What the deuce ever happened to snow fences?

  1. Hmmm…I’m surprised you are still taking Hwy 62 on snowy days. That highway is notorious for erratic and poorly skilled drivers and for the major snow-drift section just south of the Ridge Road.

    In contrast, Hwy 37 is a safer drive. There is little snow drifting and the commuters seem to be more disciplined. Furthermore, the distance from Queensborough through Tweed to Hwy 401 is ONLY an extra 2 km. [I’m convinced that the Hwy 37 route actually requires less time due to less traffic congestion (not to mention, fewer OPP patrols).] From there, it is virtually the same simple hop-and-skip along the 401 to the Loyalist-Wallbridge turnoff as from Hwy 62.

    • You’re not the first person to suggest that it’s actually faster to take 37 than 62, so that is interesting. That’s the route I took returning home in yesterday’s dreadful weather, and the driving did seem to be much better, though by that time of the day maybe the plows had been out on 62 sufficiently too. I do try to avoid even a bit of time on the 401 these days, but I could certainly go across to Wallbridge-Loyalist Road from 37 via Bell Boulevard. Thanks for the good advice!

  2. I’m wondering if maybe the municipalities put up the fences with the farmers’ permission? From there, the answer is probably, as it always seems to be, something to do with liability…. Of course, I’m just guessing!

  3. I thought it used to be the municipalities that put the fencing up, too. And I shared your pain on Friday evening as we had to drive your route down to Foxboro Road and then west towards Stirling – there and back, argh!… the drifting and whiteouts! Enough to make you lock the door and stay at home.

  4. The municipalities did indeed put up the snow fence. At one time MAdoc Twp for instance, had a mountain of snow fence rolls behind the garage. These were placed in strategic places to make the snow drift and drop well clear of the roads. In our collective wisdom, we decided that bigger trucks can handle bigger drifts and it is too labor intensive to put up snow fence each fall and remove it in the spring. That along with farmers removing fence rows,I guess, mean we need bigger trucks! As we can’t outsource the snow fence job to China, there we are!

  5. Katherine it was the Municipalities that erected the snow fences in the farmers fields not the farmers amd we have seen a few travelling on Highway #12, but very few. I realy do not know why they quit using them. Barbara

    • Thanks for the information, Barbara! I spotted one lonely piece of snow fence a little earlier this month – I think it was along Highway 37 – and it’s what got me thinking about how you used to see it everywhere. Times change…

  6. Finally caught up on your blog. Yeah. Keep up the great work. I have wondered that about snow fences and wondered why evergreens were not planted to stop the blowing snow. I see some areas on the 401 have done this.

      • Wow and I would have thought Montreal was a great place for learning the skills of driving in the snow…..but likely not too much blowing snow happening with all the buildings.

        Enjoy the weekend of hopefully little driving.

        Jo

      • Thanks, Jo-Ann – though unfortunately it was a weekend with a great deal of driving! However, the big snowfall that landed on Queensborough failed to materialize where we were, so that made up for all the travel in a short time. (Kind of.)

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