Variety of issues face city following blizzard, power outage
Friday's winter snowstorm was a prelude to Saturday's massive power outage that left no one in St. John's untouched, with both events creating a variety of issues for city residents and those in charge of its services.
In the centre of St. John's Sunday afternoon, the air was pungent with gas fumes from snowblowers and many residents were out flinging shovelfuls of snow on banks high above their heads.
Roads were down to almost one lane and still slippery.
‚Ä®On Pennywell Road, Alona Penton-Power came home from a Christmas trip to find her shovel stolen. With one borrowed from a neighbour and a garden shovel, the dig-out was progressing. ‚Ä®But Penton-Power was not impressed with the city. ‚Ä®She measured several feet out from the curb that snow clearing crews have failed to clear away from the school zone area over the winter.
‚Ä®"I'm shovelling the street. That's not my job," Penton-Power said, suggesting city crews should have been removing snow after‚ÄĮ earlier storms and more often. ‚Ä®"This is a battle we lost years ago."
On the snowclearing front, the city hopes it will be able to tackle more snow removal in the days ahead, particularly so in light of news that the provincial government has ordered all K-12 public schools, universities and colleges to remain closed on the island for Monday and Tuesday. That measure was specifically requested by the City of St. John's on Sunday.
‚ÄúWe can't operate anywhere near the school zones when school is in, particularly near and around the starting and finishing times, because there's always a safety issue,‚ÄĚ said director of public works Paul Mackey.
St. John‚Äôs Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said the school closures are a necessary public safety measure and will also aid the electric system by reducing demand.
‚ÄúIt may be that it should continue for another day or two (beyond Tuesday) depending on the weather situation,‚ÄĚ he added.
According to Mackey, removing snow so far this winter has been a challenge given the frequency of snowfalls.
‚ÄúWe've had several storms over the past 2 1/2 or three weeks that have been every three or four days, on average,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat means we can't be doing removals ... the same equipment has to be used for ice control and plowing. That obviously takes priority over removals.‚ÄĚ
As for sidewalks, Mackey said many have gotten to the point where the city's specialized sidewalk snowclearing equipment cannot handle the work. That would require the services of larger equipment already in use.
On other fronts, the city opened a warming centre that was expected to continue operating at city hall overnight Sunday into early this morning. Some people may have found it difficult to get there Saturday, as both Metrobus and GoBus Accessible Transit did not operate that day due to weather conditions. Both resumed service Sunday.
Approximately 65 homes were without water for a period Sunday following a power failure that impacted the upper pump station for the Kilbride water supply. O'Keefe said that issue was dealt with Sunday afternoon.
Both Mackey and O'Keefe made note of their concern that warmer temperatures this week may create flooding problems in the city as snow melts away. The mayor said if residents are aware of a drain that needs clearing; they should attempt to clear the area if at all possible. He said the same advice would apply to fire hydrants.
‚ÄúAs neighbours and friends, clean it out. You're helping the city. You're helping yourselves. You're helping the community. We can't do it alone.‚ÄĚ