Storm dumps twice as much snow as forecasted

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

Snowstorm January 31. — Telegram staff photo

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on February 01, 2012

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

At 5 a.m. on Tuesday, officials with the Eastern School District felt it was OK to go ahead with the school day. A few hours later, weather conditions on the Avalon Peninsula painted a much different picture.

Snow — twice as much as was initially forecasted — combined with heavy winds to produce zero-visibility conditions at times, leaving a lengthy trail of trouble in its aftermath.

Schools and businesses closed, vehicles and snowplows got stuck on the Trans-Canada Highway, and several school buses veered off roads.

According to Environment Canada, most parts of the Avalon region experienced 20 centimetres of snowfall, with winds at the airport in St. John’s peaking at 78 kilometres per hour.

According to Eastern School District director of education Ford Rice, most buses were able to get back on the road or were replaced. In one case, a group of students from Beachy Cove Elementary in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s had to be picked up by parents.

To his knowledge, there were no reports of injuries involving students on any of the buses.

Jennifer Oosthuizen, a resident of Summit Drive in Paradise, said three buses went off the road on her street.

“There was zero-visibility,” she said of conditions at the time.

One bus carrying students from Villanova Junior High School went into a ditch across the street from her home.

 

Oosthuizen, who had already picked up her son from school, offered to let the bus driver and students come inside her home and warm up as they waited for another bus to arrive.

“Some of them were shaken up,” she said.

She said most students managed to contact a parent to pick them up before the replacement bus arrived.

A pair of school buses also had to turn back as a result of a road closure on the Conception Bay South Highway near the College of the North Atlantic Seal Cove campus because of a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigation.

Rice said the 5 a.m. snowfall advisory was for 10 centimetres, but it was not long after schools opened that an updated forecast painted a messier picture, with both increased snowfall and stronger winds forecasted to start earlier in the day.

“No one could have predicted what happened with the weather today,” he said.

Though questions were raised as to why students were sent home instead of being kept at school, Rice said had they chose to wait, some students would have been travelling home in the dark. He said it was not until 3 p.m. that all students were able to get home, despite schools closing at 11:30 a.m.

The heaviest snowfall recorded by Environment Canada fell from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Numerous advisories were issued throughout the day by the RNC and RCMP telling drivers to stay off the TCH. Traffic was heavily backed up at times, with a least one report coming through of a vehicle being abandoned and blocking traffic as a result.

The timing of the snowstorm created problems for city crews, as the late closure of businesses and schools resulted in heavy traffic for snowplows to contend with, according to director of public works Paul Mackey.

“It’s slowing down our operation big time,” Mackey told The Telegram.

He expected issues would persist throughout the evening, with warming weather and strong winds creating snowdrifts. This would force snowclearing crews to go over some sections of the city multiple times.

One city plow went off the road on Forest Pond Road in Goulds, but Mackey said it was a minor incident. A plow also reportedly fell into a ditch in Paradise.

Residents of the Avalon Peninsula have more rough winter weather to look forward to later in the week. Another weather system is on Environment Canada’s radar for the weekend.

Meteorologist Herb Thoms said it’s hard at this point to predict what sort of precipitation amounts can be expected, but he said there will be a lot of wind with snow and blowing snow. The winds and precipitation are expected to start Friday evening and continue through Saturday.

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic Seal Cove, Environment Canada, Trans-Canada Highway Villanova Junior High School RCMP

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Summit Drive in, Paradise Forest Pond Road Goulds

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Recent comments

  • LB
    February 01, 2012 - 13:14

    I think the schools did the best they could with what information they had. I would not want to be the one making these decisions, especially when dealing with parents. Safety is their utmost priority, just remember that. They are criticized when they close schools and they are criticized when they open the schools. Walk a mile in the others footsteps before all this criticizing.

  • Steve
    February 01, 2012 - 12:53

    The Gander weather office was put back for the sake of the few jobs it generated. Strictly political. It had made ZERO difference to the quality of the weather forecasts....it seems worse if anything. I am not sure its because the weather itself has chnaged over the years but forecasting just seems hit or miss the past few years.

  • Chris LeDrew
    February 01, 2012 - 11:15

    Schools should be open no mater what the weather and the decision to go/not to go left to the parent They were sending kids home at the height of the storm yesterday. They would have been better off waiting till 3-3:30 and take the previous three hrs to get the city/towns out plowing roads The eastern school district is afraid they are going to get sued some day and that is why they close schools at the drop of a hat

    • Bob
      February 01, 2012 - 12:46

      I think you are 100% wrong there Chris. School should not be open no matter what. You think the kids are the only ones who get effected by the weather? You also got 100s of teachers that have to travel in that weather and its dangerous. RCMP were telling people to stay off the roads so why should teachers have to go ahead and drive in it? Do you think the weather doesn't effect the teachers travels or something? Rice is clueless to have kept the schools open. Every other school on the Island was closed yesterday. What did he accomplish by keeping them open? Buses going off the road, teachers having to travel in white out conditions. Its dangerous and he has to get his head checked for sure.

  • henry
    February 01, 2012 - 10:38

    maybe its time the schools close in winter n open in summerr . the teachers can all go south then .

  • roy
    February 01, 2012 - 09:23

    Do anyone remember DON Jameson and his news cavalcade when he without any of todays satalite equipment relying on telephone calls ,barometers etc would display a map on tv where he would draw a few circles for high and low pressures and predict the weather better then than can today with all their equipment.

  • MisterB
    February 01, 2012 - 08:53

    I think it's easy to blame the forecasters but predicting snowfall amounts is notoriously difficult especially in systems like this, you often don't know until the system actually hits. The thing is if they are over cautious and issue warnings "just in case" the worse happens, then when it doesn't happen everyone will still be criticising them for getting the schools shut down for no reason. I think we have to accept forecasting is notoriously difficult for an island, the schools need to show a bit more common sense and keep the pupils in school when a storm develops and changes rapidly like yesterday.

  • lost in the snowstorm
    February 01, 2012 - 08:08

    i dont understand yesterday afternoon at about 2pm after hearing it on a local news radio station ....the forecast was right on with accumulations .....did the lack of communication between whomever get lost in the snowstorm ????

  • Newf
    February 01, 2012 - 07:28

    Way to go Gander!!! No warnings or anyhting in place. Peoples lives were in danger on the roads!!! By far the worst forecast of the year! That Gander Weather Office is a joke! Then they come out and say they were on pace with their predictions??? Come on!!!!

  • MisterB
    February 01, 2012 - 07:15

    I don't think they can be blamed for opening the schools as normal, they can only go by what the experts at Environmen Canada say and early morning it wasn't looking like the Metro region was going to take much of a hit. But a huge mistake to decide to send the kids home at lunchtime, when it had become clear as the morning went on that between midday and 2pm it was going to be right in the middle of the worst of the storm, ridiculous to have school buses and/or expecting parents to be on the roads and pick the kids up. They should of been kept in the schools, it had been forecast to clear up by 3pm and so it did, the roads were still bad but at least it wasn't whiteout conditions (which is far more dangerous than travelling in the dark, most kids would have been home well before dark anyway Mr Rice).