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Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander sending cleanup help to St. John's

The Towns of Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander are sending snowclearing aid to St. John's after a massive blizzard shutdown the city over the weekend. CONTRIBUTED
The Towns of Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander are sending snowclearing aid to St. John's after a massive blizzard shutdown the city over the weekend. CONTRIBUTED

The Towns of Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander are joining the list of Newfoundland towns sending help to St. John's as it continues to clean up after an intense blizzard buried the city.

Grand Falls-Windsor will be sending three staff, a diesel snowblower and a semi-dump to the capital city early Jan. 21, while Gander will be sendinga loader/blower combination, the newest one in their fleet (the Town has three such units). It was loaded on a lowbed and shipped off, an accompanied by two operators and a light vehicle to transport them to and from the job site.

Over the weekend, St. John's was hit hard by a massive winter storm that shut down the city and forced officials to declare a state of emergency. It also forced the province to ask for military aid from the federal government.

Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander now joins Corner Brook to help the people of St. John's.

“Once we understood the magnitude of the storm on Saturday after the first wave, we had discussed internally about providing assistance if it was required and accepted," said Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel, adding they reached out to provincial emergency management offering help.

“We heard back from them yesterday saying that indeed they (St. John's) would welcome assistance in the form of a large diesel snowblower and the semi dump.”

Between the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor staff and the City of St. John’s staff they arranged the logistics of making that happen, and the equipment, as well as three staff, left for the city this morning.

“Basically three employees are gone so that machine can operate 24-hours a day without stopping – three eight hour shifts,” the mayor said, adding the intention is to leave it as long as they need it.

“The forecast is looking favourable in the near future so we felt that we could afford to do this, and it’s something that we should do so we pulled the trigger and went ahead and did it, as have other communities,” he said, adding town staff have done an outstanding job around town with snow clearing given our winter conditions so far which seem to be above normal. “We felt for council, management team and workforce, I'm sure everybody would be in favour of lending a hand and that’s what we did.

“A lot of people have been following on social media the pictures, videos and posts, and it always amazing me that I’m sure there’s nothing outside of wiping us off the face of the earth, that could be bad enough that it wouldn’t bring out the best in everybody.

While Grand Falls-Windsor is down a piece of its snow clearing fleet, the move is not expected to impact on the town's ability to clear its own streets.

The same can be said for Gander.

“Blowers are effective because in most areas in St. John’s they don’t really have anywhere to push the snow, so it has to be blown into dump trucks and brought somewhere to get it out of the way,” Gander Mayor Percy Farwell said of the equipment it has in St. John's.

He said the town just got 55 cm of snow themselves, however all their streets are open, and many have been widened.

“Our challenges with this particular storm is nothing compared to the challenges that they have in on the Avalon and that’s why we’re prepared to help out,” he said. “We know the situation they are in, and it’s a small contribution really to help them restore some normalcy and help their citizens get out and around. It’s what a community like ours should do for other communities in the province when they have issues like that.”

As for will the citizens of Gander notice the equipment is gone? It’s possible, he said, but they don’t anticipate it, as there is no amounts of snow forecasted over the next number of days.

“We are in the process now of doing our widening and clean up here in the town and its possible the absence of the two operators and the piece of equipment might slow that process somewhat so we might be a little longer before we reach the standard we normally aspire to,” he said.

The Town of Gander, he added, is known for their high standard of snow clearing, and they still intend to reach that standard.

“There could be some minor disruption or noticeable impact of it but the way we look at it if that’s the price that we as a town here have to pay, a slight inconvenience or slight delay, in order to help people in there who can’t even get out of their driveways, and businesses that can’t even open, to us that’s a reasonable price to have to pay to help them out,” the mayor said. “It’s the right and the only reasonable thing to do is to try to help them get out of this mess.”

He said as he understands it the two operators will be offsetting 12-hour shifts while on the Avalon.

"We have other operators that are prepared to go and replace them if this runs longer than we initially anticipate and it runs into a second week for example,” Mayor Farwell said. “We don’t have to be there until every last flake of snow is cleaned up but we do certainly feel like we should be there until there is a degree of normalcy in the community again.”

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