Sapporo snow dumping sites near their limit with almost half of them already full

Heavy snowfall in the Sapporo area, which has disrupted the transportation network in Hokkaido, is also threatening to put a strain on snow dumping sites in Sapporo. The deepest accumulated snow in Sapporo this season was 133 centimeters, almost double that of a normal season. Eighteen of the 30 snow dumping sites in the city are already closed as they have reached their capacity. Nine of the remaining sites were also forced to close temporarily on February 26, due to the possibility of them collapsing because of the warm weather. If reopening is delayed, it would delay the removal of snow from the streets, which starts in earnest in March, and this, in turn, may also affect the collection of garbage and the delivery of goods.
On the afternoon of February 24, more than 20 dump trucks lined up at Sapporo’s largest snow dumping site in Kita-ku, to dump snow that was being brought in continuously. “The sheer volume of snow is almost disaster-level,” said Mr. Tanaka, CEO of a construction company in Teine-ku that has managed the site for 15 years.
The original estimated volume of snow to be dumped there was 1.19 million cubic meters, but due to the heavy snowfall, the volume increased and, as of February 25, had doubled to 2.32 million cubic meters. The mountain of snow is 30 meters high, 1.5 times higher than usual, and 100 meters wide, and the volume of snow is equivalent to 1.5 times the capacity of Sapporo Dome (Toyohira-ku). The largest amount of snow dumped there in recent years was 2.5 million cubic meters in 2013, and this figure is expected to be exceeded in March for the first time in nine years. Site manager Tanaka expressed his concerns, saying, “Once we reach the maximum capacity, we don’t know how long we will be able to use it.”
According to the city government, the initial plan was to accept 16 million cubic meters of snow at the 30 snow dumping sites in the city used by public and private contractors. As of February 17, the city had received 10.84 million cubic meters of snow removed from main roads and other areas, commissioned by the city government. Of this, approximately 30% was brought in through “partnership snow removal” programs (total of approx. 2,500 km of roads) in which locals residents share the cost of snow removal. Assuming that large amounts of snow will be brought in when snow removal begins in earnest, the city hopes to increase the capacity of the remaining snow dumping sites but, according to the city’s snow management office, “We cannot say that we have enough room and, if the partnership programs continue, we cannot deny the concerns that the dumping sites will become strained.”
Amid all this, Sapporo experienced a warm spell on February 26, similar to early April temperatures, and nine snow dumping sites were temporarily closed due to the risk of collapse caused by cracks in the snow piles. Only three sites were able to accept snow. According to one of the companies responsible for managing the snow dumping sites, “If the warm weather continues and we can’t repair the cracks, we may have to close the sites as they are.”
The City of Sapporo prioritizes the removal of snow from main roads and bus routes, and many of the community and residential roads have been narrowed by piles of snow. In addition to the pressure placed on the snow dumping sites, the temporary closure due to the warm weather may further delay the removal of snow from these roads, which may have a prolonged impact on the daily lives of residents.

A snow dumping site with a huge mountain of snow 30 m high – 1.5 times higher than normal. The afternoon of February 24, Kita-ku, Sapporo


Sapporo’s largest snow dumping site in Kita-ku