It was 8:30 p.m. Friday evening in the middle of a record-breaking blizzard in Newfoundland.
Patrick Farrell was sitting in his living room at his Sunnyside, Trinity Bay home when he heard a “huge crash”.
He was home with his wife and two daughters, ages 10 and 12.
“I’ve never heard anything like it,” he said.
“It was a rumble and a crash, and I didn’t know what happened.
“I looked out my back window, and it looked like my shed was a lot closer to the house,” he laughed.
“Sure enough, I get a flashlight out - it was dark and stormy, it was hard to see. And when I tried looking out the back door, there was like an eight foot bank there, with branches and trees sticking out.
“And I thought, geez, that hill came down. Then I looked, and I could see in the garage - I could see right into the window in the garage, the snow was right up to the roof on the inside of the garage. And the front of the garage was blown off.”
Farrell is a fireworks technician who does many commercial fireworks shows throughout the province. In another shed on his property, he keeps many of his supplies. That shed was also covered by the avalanche. It also pushed his trailer.
Farrell moved to the small community from Saskatchewan 12 years ago. Behind his house, right against his backyard, is what he described as “a very steep hill”.
“You can see where it started, where the drifts are near the top of the hill and the whole side of the hill - all the snow just came down all at once.”
He said at first he thought the windows in his house had broken out because it was so loud. Luckily, the house was not damaged.
But the snow drifts were many feet high, and the roads were not plowed. The family couldn’t leave.
“It worried me after that, thinking, well, if that came down, is there more coming down? It’s already right against the house, and it had already destroyed the garage and the shed - pushed it close to the house. And the whole side of the shed was out. I felt a little nervous all night with that wind we had.
“It made me a bit nervous thinking maybe there’s more on that hill to come down yet.”
When The Telegram spoke with Farrell on Saturday at noon, he said the roads were not plowed.
Inside the garage was his side-by-side, generator, tools, and at the bottom of it all - his snowblower.
He estimated the avalanche caused “many thousands of dollars” of damage.
“I can’t even dig out my snowblower - it’s at the bottom of all that stuff, underneath everything,” he laughed.
With the help of his neighbour, Alton Strowbridge, he will spend Saturday shovelling. Anything he is able to save from beneath the snow will be stored in Strowbridge’s garage.
'The loudest thing I’ve ever heard'
As for Strowbridge, his 16’ X 30’ deck on the back of his house was smashed into his house by the avalanche.
“All the railings is busted off it, and I can’t see what else damage is done because it’s all buried in snow. But the railings are off it and its pushed in against the house.
“Other than that, the snow that accumulated from the avalanche is up to the roof of both of my sheds - one of those is over 12 feet high, and it’s up to the roof of that. Luckily, it never busted in the walls.”
Strowbridge said he’s lived in the house for 22 years and he’s never seen anything like this.
“It’s a first for us, and I talked to a friend of mine that’s lived in Sunnyside all of his life in this area, and he’s in his 50s also, and he has never seen anything like this before. Never.”
He said he and his wife were relaxing inside when they heard a rumble.
“It was a weird sound. It was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard, like, in winter from that, for sure.”
He said they also plan to remain at home, and he’s not scared.
“That’s not going to drive us out, no - we’re OK.”
He said the snow built up from the avalanche is “pretty firm”.
Before talking to The Telegram shortly after noon, he said walked up through it.
“It’s packed so hard you can almost walk on top of it. So, I don’t think there’s much fear of it moving again there now. But there’s still lots of snow up high, and really, there’s nowhere to go. We can’t get out yet anyway.”