Record snowfall

Andrew Robinson
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Thirty centimetres a new single-day high for November

Motorists trying to get to work Thursday morning in St. John’s  may have found it to be headache-inducing.

Meeting the predictions of forecasters and then tacking on a bit more of the white stuff for good measure, almost 30 centimetres of snow dropped on St. John’s by midday Thursday.

It was a new single-day record for November in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The deluge of snow closed schools, cancelled events, delayed bus service and forced drivers to proceed with caution once they were on the road after shovelling their vehicles out of snowbanks.

Between 20 and 30 centimetres of snowfall were reported in areas stretching from the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas to the Avalon Peninsula.

According to Environment Canada meteorologist Herb Thoms, the highest recorded snowfall amount was at St. John’s International Airport, which hit 29 centimetres by midday Thursday. The previous record was 25.3 centimetres on Nov. 19, 1980.

The snow started to fall at approximately 1 a.m., coming down at its heaviest two hours later, according to Environment Canada.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, snowfall was light, with temperatures fluctuating between just-above-or-below the freezing point.

In St. John’s, there were reports coming from residents expressing concerns over how quickly plows responded to Thursday morning’s weather.

City director of public works Paul Mackey told The Telegram the snow storm presented a challenge to city workers. He said heavy snowfall combined with rush-hour traffic impeded the progress of crews, adding it appeared many drivers had not yet switched to winter tires, causing them to drive slowly to avoid causing accidents.

“We had (all plows) out there, it’s just a question of not making much progress, because it was snowing heavy from about 4 a.m. to late in the morning, and that combined with the time of day and the traffic, our plows get tied up in the traffic like everybody else. You can’t get around the routes and the areas as fast.”

Mackey said crews would work overnight to deal with the record snowfall. As of the end of October, the City of St. John’s had spent approximately $660,000 above its year-to-date snow clearing budget.

“This will obviously impact the budget. This is a major storm, so there will be a significant expense,” said Mackey.

Almost every school in the Eastern School District was closed as a result of the storm, and Memorial University did not reopen until 5:30 p.m. Metrobus did not hit the roads until 1 p.m.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responded to six accidents on Thursday between midnight and late-afternoon. Const. Talia Murphy said most drivers adjusted their speed in response to weather conditions.

Sgt. Wayne Newell  of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said there were a couple of minor accidents reported of vehicles going off the road. An 18-wheel tractor trailer also went off the road approximately 20 kilometres east of the Goobies scale house.

Aside from being a record-setting day, Thursday’s snowfall also handily beat the total accumulation for all of November and December 2010 — 19.8 centimetres. The heaviest snowfall during that stretch came on Nov. 30 when a mere 4.4 centimetres was recorded.

Thoms said the seasonal forecast as of two weeks ago called for below average temperatures and near-or-above normal precipitation amounts.

“Looking at the two combined, it would suggest a different winter than last year,” he said.

In November and December 2010, rain was the name of the game. November witnessed 85.2 millimetres of rainfall, while December was drenched by an astounding 326.9 millimetres of rain.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Environment Canada, International Airport, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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Recent comments

  • Mount Pearlian
    November 25, 2011 - 13:29

    As usual, Mount Pearl snow-clearing was awesome!

    • Diego
      November 25, 2011 - 13:40

      To "Mount Pearlian" : I guess it's pretty easy to clear the streets in the town of Mt. Pearl when 75% of your citizens are driving around in St. John's. Baymen make me laugh.

  • TM
    November 25, 2011 - 13:11

    I too live in Grande Prairie, AB. I too cannot believe the lack of snow plowing and preparation for winter roads here. They don't even salt or sand the roads, which leads to ice-rink roads that you are forced to drive on. Think about that, no built up over ice continuously for months. There are daily accidents here, and this is the richest province in Canada! They just bragged about how much they had left over in their snow budget from last year in the local paper. How brazen! Last year, the ice ruts tore a hole in my transmission and damaged countless other vehicles. Additionally, they do not plow the roads until a few days after the snow fall here. You would not see that happen back in Newfoundland. I know there is suffering, but there isn't even a comparison for the road maintenance home, it's 110% better!

  • Moe St.Cool
    November 25, 2011 - 11:49

    The next time there is a storm make sure you log on to the AVL tracking system on the City's website. I did numerous times and half the fleet was parked at the depot on Blackmarsh road. I also noticed to loader clearing sidestreets in Kilbride while there was not 1 machine in the whole westend of St.John's. Also there was a City Loader clearing snow in Bowring Park almost all day ...some answers need to be given for that bizarre procedure! That GPS tracking system tells the truth when the city is NOT.

    • annon
      November 25, 2011 - 17:10

      That is because they didn't have their entire crew on. I personally know someone who works plowing the roads and he, along with many others, were not called into work Thursday. Actually they are not reporting to work till next weekend. The reason is for the city to save money so they pushed back the start date for everyone till next saturday. No matter what they will tell you, thursday there was only a skeleton crew working the streets.

  • Diego
    November 25, 2011 - 11:21

    The time for status quo in this city is over. How long can we continue to put up with the mismanagement, poor planning and small-town thinking that permeates city hall? For the past 5 years in particular, the region has seen unprecedented growth but the infrastructure remains 25 years behind the times. It's not only in snow clearing but we have a water system which is taxed to beyond capacity. The city's response to this is having a water ban rather than investigate increasing the water supply to keep up with the growth. The transportation system cannot deal with the traffic. The only response to traffic flow issues is to put up more traffic lights, thereby decreasing the flow. The public transit system is a farce. The buses are wider than most street lanes can accommodate yet they mostly travel virtually empty. There is far too much emphasis placed on growing the tax base than there is on providing adequate services to the tax base they already have. Concerning snow clearing, firstly, the plow drivers are only trained to move piles of rocks around a quarry which is no training for the intricacies of snow clearing and removal. The city snow clearing plan is simply push the snow into taxpayer's driveways and let them deal with it. I don't think that is something I should be paying for the privilege of doing. The snow clearing budget is cleaned out each year by a union that thrives on overtime. They accomplish this by doing a bad job several times rather than a good job once. Housing in new subdivisions are too closely packed to allow for areas where snow can be placed to get it out of the street and they simply have no idea how to clear the snow in a cul-du-sac. I actually laughed out loud when I heard on the news that the city was going to have meetings to discuss future planning. Why would you rely on the uninformed masses to instruct a group of incompetent burocrats how to do something as important as this? Contact a real city or cities and get some ideas from people who are trained and capable rather than fumble around in the dark as you have planned. It's time to get out of the 19th century and into the modern age of urban life. There are cities around North America that are doing good things with the space they have. See what they are doing and come up with a REAL plan for future growth rather than cram in as many houses as will fit in order to increase tax revenue yet remain unable to provide the services that are being paid for. City Hall needs an enema to clear out the waste and wasteful. Then we need to hire people who know what running a city takes and are able to do it. Every year it's the same thing with snow clearing. St. John's has been for 500 years so why is winter always a surprise? When you get 2 days notice that a storm is coming and you're still surprised that it comes, it's time to retire and let some new blood in.

  • Sean
    November 25, 2011 - 11:06

    No wonder the city is $600,00 over budget for snow clearing so far this year. When you see how often a plow comes up your street and buries you in, it makes you wonder how much flooging of hours goes on with these plow drivers. This city always had poor snow clearing and continuously gets worse. Nice to see how our tax dollars gets spent. St. John's city council needs a complete over haul, starting with Paul Mackey.

  • Bill
    November 25, 2011 - 11:06

    The City is just not prepared to deal with winter. The snowclearing budget is inadequate and the number of pieces of equipment is insufficient to meet the demand. The City has expanded exponentially in terms of the number of new streets and arterial roads but the amount of equipment to service the demand has fallen behind. And like many of the other commenters to this site I am getting a little tired of Paul Mackey attempting to rationalize the poor service. The service is just not acceptable.

  • mommy
    November 25, 2011 - 10:19

    Who sets these budgets? Every year we hear how much they have gone over- well one would think that if EVERY SINGLE YEAR you go over budget there must be something wrong with the budget process- shouldn't the numbers change since you know they are realistic. You could even take out any years where we have an excessive amount of snow- but to be over budget before the snow even starts-shouldn't the budget have been looked at again? This is Newfoundland- its November! snow is not unheard of.... we do have some previous experience

  • Kara Moss
    November 25, 2011 - 10:04

    Thanks for this great story! I'm a NLder living in Alberta and I love reading the news from home. The one thing I wanted to comment on was the response time of the plows. My husband and I live in Grande Prairie AB and we often get large snowfalls like home in NL. We rarely see a plow, ever. This is a city the size of Corner Brook and the fastest I've seen a plow come out after a snowfall is four days after the snow has fallen. Also, they plow the snow to the middle of the roads here and leave it there so there's a huge mountain of snow in the middle of the street and people can hardly pass through. I miss home everyday, as well as the timely manner in which things such things as snow clearing gets done. Be thankful my fellow Newfoundlanders, you have it much better than Alberta and probably many other provinces. Kara Moss

  • Bill
    November 25, 2011 - 09:56

    I don't care about the budget. it's no excuse for poor management. Just do your job and clean the streets in a timely manner. Is it to much to ask? Get your priorities in order Doc.

  • grant
    November 25, 2011 - 09:46

    I used to clear son on runways in the high Arctic every year at different locations, we had everything prepaired, and we didnt have a budget as such because we knew it was going to snow and blow and drift. Every year Mr Mackey comes on and is suprised that we had that much snow, suprised some people never had winter tires on, the budget this and the budget that. He is suprised about the water not draining from the drains. Iam going to help him out this year by saying that there is going to be more snow and along with it plugged drains, traffic, freezing rain, power outages.

  • Townie
    November 25, 2011 - 09:20

    Court Jester O'Keefe stated on TV news that they had 20 plows and 20 trunks with plows on the road. No one asked if this was enough for a City(?) this size, but that's OK if they had they would probably have excepted any answer without question anyway. The news media?

    • Sean
      November 25, 2011 - 11:14

      There is not a true journalist in this province either with TV, Radio or paper. They just listen to these moron politicians and report what they say as the gospel truth. These politicians, in all levels of government, have got to start to be held accountable for their actions. That is all we get from Doc and Mackey are B.S. excuses. Get rid of them all!!!!!!!

  • Derek
    November 25, 2011 - 08:59

    the snow began around 1 am and at 5 am as I was making my way to the airport there not a plow insight. The taxi driver said she had not seen a plow for the last 4 hours. Givewn the high trafiic going to the airport at 4 am to 6 am there was no plow in the area. To say the storm presented challeges is a cop out. This storm was predicted for two days. Crews should have been dispatched as soon as the snow began. There was no traffic on the roads until 7 am. That is 7 hours after the snow began, Mr. Mackey you need to wake up and stop making excuses for poor management

  • Rob
    November 25, 2011 - 08:12

    While yesterday's snowfall was a seasonal record the city's street clearing efforts also hit a milestone. It had to be the worst effort ever committed to clearing our streets. I am sick and tired of hearing Mackey make excuse after excuse as to why they weren't ready or how they are over budget, or the rush hour traffic or any number of other reason's why the snow clearing in this city sucks and gets worse every year. The public works division at city hall has had no foresight and cannot now effectively deal with the growth our city has undergone. Our streets cannot accomodate the traffic we have and the city no longer has the ability to provide even a minimal level of the most basic public services. As tax payers we derserve far better.