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St. John's, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Torbay declare state of emergency amidst blizzard


Shops ordered to close, vehicles prohibited from using city streets

Above: The scene in St. John's Friday.

The City of St. John's declared a state of emergency at 11 a.m. Friday.

In a news release, the city said that given the current and forecasted conditions, the state of emergency will remain in effect until lifted, not giving a details about a timeline.

"All businesses are ordered to close; shops closing regulations are suspended and all vehicles except emergency vehicles are prohibited from using city streets," reads the news release.

As of 11:30 a.m., city plowing operations were continuing.

Everyone was asked to return home and not to drive until the state of emergency was lifted.

Even the mayor said he was working from home, fielding calls from a couple of cell phones, and using his computer to remain in constant contact with city staff.

“We’re preparing for whatever comes at us because with high winds there’s always the concern over power outages, so we’re keeping an eye on that,” said St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen.

He said he was speaking with Premier Dwight Ball and Minister of Transportation Steve Crocker, and they will remain in communication as to whether the city will need assistance from the province, but as of late morning Breen said the city was “good so far.”

Last state of emergency was 36 years ago

Plows cut around Buckmaster’s Circle in St. John’s Friday after a state of emergency was declared in metro. - Barb Sweet
Plows cut around Buckmaster’s Circle in St. John’s Friday after a state of emergency was declared in metro. - Barb Sweet

Breen said as far as he knows, the last time the city declared a state of emergency was in 1984 during the ice storm when John Murphy was mayor.

“What’s different this time from the past (is) we’ve had bad storms, and we’ve had bad wind storms, but we’ve never had both of them in one, really, at this level. And we also have 170 cm of snow on the ground.”

He said declaring a state of emergency involves several considerations: the forecast, information from city staff who are out working on the roads, and other issues such as the Department of Transportation taking its plows off the roads. That means high-traffic metro area roads such as the Team Gushue highway, the Outer Ring Road, and Pitts Memorial Drive will not be plowed. 

“One really extenuating factor is the amount of snow that we’ve had on the ground, and the fact that our snow storage capacity in the city is very low. And the wind, and the impact that could have on power… there’s just a whole lot of things in play here that make it a very unique situation.”

State of emergency called in Mount Pearl, Paradise, Torbay

A man braves the snowy streets of St. John's on Friday. - Zach Bonnell/Reuters
A man braves the snowy streets of St. John's on Friday. - Zach Bonnell/Reuters

Elsewhere on the northeast Avalon, the city of Mount Pearl and town of Paradise each declared a state of emergency at around noon, citing the massive snowfall and high winds. Just as in St. John’s, all non-emergency vehicles are prohibited from the roadways in both municipalities, and all businesses ordered to close.

“Safety remains the City’s top priority and we ask all residents to remain home until the state of emergency has been lifted,” reads a statement from the city of Mount Pearl.

As of noon, the town of Paradise still had plows on the road, but advised it was considering removing them from the roadways, until the worst of the blizzard had passed.

“Residents are reminded to not park cars on Town roads as this impedes snow clearing operations. We also ask our residents to have patience as this is a significant snowfall and it will take time to complete snow clearing operations,” read a statement from the town.

The Town of Torbay declared a state of emergency around 1:30 p.m. All businesses were ordered to close immediately, and all vehicles were prohibited from using the town's streets, with the exception of emergency and snow clearing vehicles.

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