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Avalanche Canada reminds Newfoundland residents to be careful around snow buildup

This Avalanche Canada image depicts cornice development.
This Avalanche Canada image depicts cornice development. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

As St. John’s and eastern Newfoundland digs out from the record-breaking snowfall, Avalanche Canada is reminding residents to be careful around snow build up and large, open slopes.

Tobogganing or playing around ravines, gullies, or small hills could potentially be very dangerous at this time, a news release states.

“While our focus is generally on backcountry safety, we are concerned about the possibility of avalanches in St. John’s and surrounding areas,” said Karl Klassen, warning service manager with Avalanche Canada.

“With the tremendous amount of snow that fell, we know the snowpack will be unstable. Any slope steeper than 25 degrees has the potential to be hazardous.”

Avalanche Canada is warning those who are venturing outdoors to not go alone, and to be aware of their surroundings. There are many small hills and features surrounding St John’s that could produce avalanches. Even snow sliding off a steep roof could potentially bury a person.

The blizzard that came with the wind has also produced cornices, which are overhanging masses of snow that protrude from sharp terrain features.

“Cornices can suddenly collapse and even small ones can weigh several tonnes,” Klassen said. “Their dense nature makes them particularly hazardous and it’s important not to spend time below them and to avoid walking or riding on to them.”

This Avalanche Canada image illustrates slope angles.
This Avalanche Canada image illustrates slope angles.


The massive snowstorm on Friday into Saturday had shut down much of the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas with a record amount of snow.

According to Environment Canada, St. John’s International Airport recorded a new all-time daily snowfall record Friday of 76.2 cm. The previous record was 68.4 cm on April 5, 1999. Records began to be documented in 1942.

Another 10-15 cm has fallen since.

St. John’s Regional Fire Department Chief Sherry Colford said the five people evacuated out of the Battery neighbourhood of St. John’s Friday night after a snow avalanche damaged their home. An avalanche in Sunnyside destroyed a homeowner’s garage, shed and patio.

There is a search continuing for a missing person in the Roaches Line area.

In the St. John’s area and other towns impacted by the storm, people have been out snowshoeing, skiing, sliding, snowboarding, and even snowmobiling and ATV riding on the roads and huge snow buildups.

Avalanche Canada reminds residents to think safety first.


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