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Clarenville town officials say their blizzard battle went smoothly

An aerial photo of Clarenville post-winter storm. PAUL TILLEY PHOTO
An aerial photo of Clarenville post-winter storm. PAUL TILLEY PHOTO
CLARENVILLE, N.L. —

When it was all said and done, the Town of Clarenville was able to weather the Jan. 17 winter storm, since dubbed Snowmageddon 2020, quite nicely.

While spared from the highest accumulations of snowfall and the peak velocity of wind, town officials say they had a well-prepared plan and determination that kept them ahead of the game throughout the weekend of the blizzard.

Rick Wells, Director of external operations, told The Packet their 12 town operators, manning four flyer trucks, five loaders and one sidewalk snowblower, had their hands full but certainly rose to the challenge — and then some.

“We’ve had guys going now for 12 hour shifts since mid-last week," he said.

Wells added the plows stayed on the road over the course of Friday night, and they constantly monitored local streets.

“Most of our success is a testament to the staff we have,” he said.

Wells says they widened the streets quite a bit the week before the storm, in preparation of about 50 centimetres on Friday and additional 25 on Monday. They also relied on their mechanics to make sure as much of their equipment was in working order as possible.

Now they have to figure out where to put the snow for the rest of the winter. They’ll be pushing snow onto private property to make way for more snowfall.

“People don’t want snow pushed on their property but we don’t have the means, the manpower or the equipment to truck it away,” Wells explained.

Mayor Frazer Russell says he knows how great a job was done with this recent storm when he can count his phone messages with one hand. He says the complaints have been few and the compliments many for the work that was done.

“That’s my litmus test for success,” says Russell.

He says keeping the roads open for people needing to get to the hospital, or workers having to go on the highway is an important task for them.

“If there’s anything from that extreme condition we can learn from, we certainly will.”

He expects the town to be ready if anything close to last weekend’s events happen again, noting the resources they’ve invested in the Bill Davis Chalet as a warming centre during any power outages caused by a storm.

One of the biggest messages for coming weeks, say Wells and Mayor Russell, is residents should make sure young children don't make snow tunnels and forts in the snowbanks.

For one thing, these structures could collapse on top of them. For another thing, plow operators working to widen the streets might not be be able to see them.

Sliding near the roads, or playing near snow-blocked streets is also a potential danger.

“While we encourage kids to go out and play, certainly not on the sides of roads and digging forts,” says Wells.

Jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

Twitter: @jejparsons

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