Federal government approves N.L.'s request for assistance, including army mobilization, following blizzard


  • Federal government approves province's request for assistance.
  • State of emergency orders remain in effect in St. John's, other municipalities.
  • The state of emergency in St. John's will remain in place through Sunday and may extend to Monday morning.
  • Newfoundland Power says power has been restored to about 75 per cent of customers impacted by outages.
  • Several school closures planned for Monday.

The federal government approved Newfoundland and Labrador's request for assistance in dealing with the aftermath of a record-smashing blizzard, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said Saturday.

"Whatever assistance we have available and we can mobilize on the ground will happen," said O'Regan, who is also the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

Speaking from a federal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, O'Regan said additional details regarding the mobilization of the Canadian Armed Forces will come once the two federal ministers tasked with the assistance — Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan — arrive in Winnipeg.

Blair is expected to address the media on Sunday morning. "The Government Operations Centre has staff working to coordinate the federal response to the situation in Newfoundland and Labrador," Blair said in a statement issued Saturday night.

"Canadians can be assured that all levels of government are working together to deliver the required help."

The primary task of the army, as well as reservists already in the province, will be clearing snow, O'Regan said. "We'll be able to relieve operators who have been out there for a long time," he said. "Workers in the hospital, some going on 36, 38 hours and need to be relieved. We need to get professionals back into the hospital."

O'Regan added that a ban on dumping snow into the harbour in St. John's was lifted yesterday in order to address the massive pileup of snow. He said the federal government would discuss with St. John's Mayor Danny Breen when to reimpose the ban, which was meant to address chemicals and salt polluting the harbour.

The blizzard warning covering much of eastern Newfoundland was lifted earlier in the day, but the massive clean-up effort continued into the evening. The province's English school district announced that all schools on the Avalon Peninsula will be closed Monday.

Schools in the Discovery Collegiate system on the Bonavista Peninsula — which includes Discovery Collegiate, Matthew Elementary and Catalina Elementary — will also be closed Monday, along with École Rocher-du-Nord in St John's.

"This has been an extraordinary amount of snowfall, so it required an extraordinary response," Premier Dwight Ball told CBC News Network's Aarti Pole after federal assistance was approved. "We've had great response from the current employees that we have throughout the province, but you know, they're getting tired.

"They've been at this a long time, and the work is tough, so right now what we've asked the federal government to do is send in resources that would complement the great work done and they have agreed to do that."

The blizzard brought 76.2 centimetres of snow to St. John's International Airport, although other areas — including in the city itself — reported more. The blizzard warning was lifted Saturday morning.

However, more snow is expected. According to CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler, 10 to 15 cm of snow is expected to fall starting Sunday evening, from central Newfoundland east to the Avalon Peninsula and down to the south coast. Winds are also expected to ramp up again, Brauweiler added, with gusts out of the east and southeast ranging from 60 to 90 kilometres per hour.

Watch this time-lapse video of the blizzard enveloping a car:

Newfoundland Power tweeted that as of Saturday night, power had been restored to about 75 per cent of customers impacted by outages. "Crews will continue to work overnight, restoring power where they can," one tweet read. "However, customers currently without power should be prepared to be out overnight."

Coverage of the storm also led off the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast — including a storm update from Bob Cole, the legendary broadcaster who retired last year after a half-century of work for Hockey Night in Canada.

"It took a state of emergency, by the way, to get me on Hockey Night again," Cole told Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean on Saturday night before the beginning of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Chicago Blackhawks game.

Watch as Bob Cole discusses the blizzard on Hockey Night in Canada:

State of emergency extended in St. John's

A state of emergency remains in effect in St. John's and in numerous other municipalities. The order means that businesses must close and vehicles must stay off roads.

However, people were seen lining up outside Walsh's Store on St. Clare Avenue on Saturday evening in apparent defiance of the order.

Submitted by John Delaney

All flights in and out of St. John's International Airport were cancelled, and operations won't resume before 8 p.m. on Sunday, the airport posted on Twitter.

The state of emergency in St. John's will remain in place through Sunday and may even extend to Monday morning, Breen said. Breen said the city would be borrowing equipment, including snowblowers, from Corner Brook.

Brian Murphy, who runs a snow-clearing business with his brothers in Mount Pearl, told Cross Country Checkup host Duncan McCue he's been clearing snow since 3 a.m. "It's been pretty busy," Murphy told McCue from his snowplow, adding that cars "left in the way" on the road add to the difficulty of the task.

Murphy said it'll take "a day or two" to clear the roads. "The best place for you to be is in your house," he added.

Watch as a member of the Canadian Red Cross discusses blizzard preparation:

People posting photos of their predicament online show tunnels dug through drifts that are blocking entrances, children climbing out of windows, and heaps of snow left to melt in bathtubs.

Staff with Rainbow Riders, a therapeutic horse program in St. John's, spent two nights inside the facility to wait out the blizzard. "They're great. They're pretty comfortable here this morning, having their breakfast, chewing happily and kicking at their stalls," Sarah Evans told CBC Radio Saturday.

Evans and another staffer stayed overnight Thursday into Friday at the Mount Scio barn, in case they couldn't get in Friday morning. They were still at Rainbow Riders Saturday morning.

Watch as the executive director of Rainbow Riders describes the upcoming cleanup:

Videos and photos posted online show snowmobiles being employed instead of vehicles. However, government officials are reminding people that it's against the law.

"Please remember that recreational vehicles are not permitted to operate on roadways and, when crossing roadways, they must ensure they have clear line of sight 100 metres in each direction," said Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh on Twitter.

A storm surge warning remains in effect for the northeast coast of Newfoundland, which covers scores of coastal communities.

Ryan Cooke/CBC

During the blizzard Friday evening, there was a fire at a house on Ennis Avenue around 8 p.m., according to CBC's Peter Gullage. The fire department responded and put the fire out, but a neighbour told Gullage that the house caught fire again, leading to another 911 call.

When the fire department returned, a firefighter fell through the floor, according to Gullage. The firefighter was rescued, and there has been no word on any injuries.

Peter Gullage/CBC News

Brauweiler said wind gusts in St. John's were estimated to have hit 157 km/h at peak. She said estimates were being used because instruments may have stopped recording data.

Before dawn Saturday, wind gusts had subsided, but were still over 100 km/h.

Power had been knocked out in pockets from St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor, including all of Bell Island, large swaths of the capital city and neighbouring towns.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was also called to the Battery on Saturday when waves hauled a shed into the ocean. No one was hurt.

Darkness interrupts search for missing man

A ground search for a Roaches Line man who went missing during the height of the blizzard was interrupted by darkness, but RCMP said the search for 26-year-old Joshua Wall will resume on Sunday.

"Joshua has not been found," an RCMP spokesperson told CBC News Saturday evening, adding that a military helicopter from 103 Search and Rescue Squadron in Gander planned to make "one more pass this evening."

Wall left his Roaches Line home to walk to a friend's house at 12:30 p.m. NT on Friday, and has not been heard from since. 

He later told his parents he was going to visit a friend in Marysvale, and decided to leave on foot after he couldn't get a taxi.


His last known location was on a backcountry path through the wilderness, and Wayne Wall said his son is not familiar with the area.

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