VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Residents dig out their car in St. John’s on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Residents dig out their car in St. John’s on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Military personnel armed with shovels spread out across St. John’s, N.L., Monday in response to calls from people still struggling to dig out from last week’s unprecedented snowfall.

With a state of emergency set to extend into its fifth day Tuesday, travel remained difficult across eastern Newfoundland, and some residents were relying on each other for food.

Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Navy members were being deployed around the city Monday, where traffic was reduced to one lane between towering snowdrifts. Dump trucks hauling loads of snow shared the road with police vehicles, pickup trucks carting snowblowers and pedestrians stretching their legs after days of begin housebound.

The provincial capital is still reeling after Friday’s blizzard dumped 76 centimetres of snow amid winds gusting over 150 kilometres per hour.

With a few flurries in the air, a team of four green-clad soldiers chipped away Monday at a steep, buried driveway on Topsail Road, a task one of them estimated took a few hours.

A civilian passerby joined in with his snowblower, and the soldiers were encouraged by people in passing vehicles, who honked horns and shouted their thanks.

READ MORE: Armed Forces being mobilized to help Eastern Newfoundland dig out

Bill Ash, 70, said the sight of a clear driveway was a relief after being snowed in for four days.

“I was in quite a predicament until I saw our military men turn up this morning,” he said. “I really appreciate everything they done.”

He said his daughter had tried to come by but couldn’t make it close to the house. Ash has a snowblower and made some progress himself near his side door before being overwhelmed by the volume of snow.

Gunner James Howie was part of the crew clearing his driveway, where only the antenna of Ash’s car was visible under the drift of snow.

Howie said he joined the army three years ago partly out of a desire to help people during natural disasters, though this was his first time responding to a snowstorm.

“It’s an amazing community,” Howie said of St. John’s. “Everyone I’ve seen has either thanked us, honked the horn as they’re passing and certainly cheered us on while we’re working.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said 450 troops— including about 175 reservists — will be in Newfoundland by Tuesday to help the province dig out from the storm.

“When you have 175 reservists who at the same time live in the communities who are affected as well, going out and helping others, it’s something to be really proud of, of our reserves and how we come together,” Sajjan said in Winnipeg where he was attending a federal cabinet retreat.

Sajjan said it is ”way too early” to say how long military assistance will be necessary, but he said the troops will stay as long as they’re needed. He also said more will be sent if necessary.

Meanwhile, the province urged neighbours to continue to check on seniors, people with disabilities and others at risk from days of being shut in without access to food stores or prescription refills.

“In many cases, the roads are still not safe to drive on, and emergency responders need unhindered access to provide emergency services,” a release from the provincial Municipal Affairs Department said Monday afternoon.

The City of St. John’s announced its state of emergency would remain in effect Tuesday, but some stores will be allowed to reopen to sell “basic foods.” Most other businesses have to remain closed, with exceptions for gas stations and some pharmacies.

The city advised residents to “be prepared to purchase enough food for your family for 48 hours. Future opportunities to open food stores during this state of emergency will be evaluated and communicated as conditions warrant.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Weather

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Permission to develop a residential treatment centre providing mental health and addiction recovery is being sought at the Tachick Lake Resort purchased by Carrier Sekani Family Services. (Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako photo)
Treatment centre eyed at former Tachick Lake Resort near Vanderhoof

Carrier Sekani Family Services awaiting adoption of rezoning bylaw

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

The North Country Inn and Restaurant in Vanderhoof notified the public Friday morning of a positive, COVID-19 case for one of its workers. (Facebook photo)
North Country Inn and Restaurant employee tests positive for COVID-19

The North Country Inn and Restaurant said the employee had not been in contact with its patrons

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read