Where can it all go? Gander cleans up after snow storm

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Where can it all go? Gander cleans up after snow storm

Despite a pair of blizzards which pushed Gander's snow accumulation to record levels, Gander's first responders say they've had a relatively quiet week.

Gander Fire and Rescue was all geared up for a surge in phone calls, according to Addison Quilty, the town's fire inspector, in order to help with panicking people and medical emergencies.

They even called in extra firefighters, but Quilty says no surge came. In fact, the fire department had only two calls on Monday evening during the snow storm.

"I must say, we were quite fortunate not to be busy at all," he said.

It was just as quiet at the town's municipal police department. Const. Oz Fudge said he didn't have one single call during the blizzard.

"It's been quiet, it's been unbelievable that way," he said.

Fudge saluted everyone who was helping their neighbours, whether by pushing cars out of snowbanks or clearing driveways.

Lots of people are out helping. Meanwhile the town is shifting into overdrive to clear the gigantic dump of snow.

More than 125 centimetres has fallen on Gander since Thursday and the front lawn is where most of the snow goes, whether you're a plow operator — or a young woman from Jamaica.

Nelsonia Miller and her father Thomas braved the blustery conditions Tuesday afternoon to clear out their driveway.

Thomas Miller moved to Gander almost seven years ago, and admits he had little idea what he was getting himself into, as far as the weather is concerned.

"I came here very unprepared," he said, adding it only took eight weeks from the time he heard about Gander to move to the town.

Safe to say he never imagined he'd be shovelling snow onto a snow bank about twice his height.

"We never had snow in the Jamaica — never in the history of Jamaica. We're probably 30 degrees right now in Jamaica," he said. "This is my sixth winter, and actually the first I ever had so much snow to shovel."

Looking on the bright side

Those six years have given the Millers more than enough practice. Today, he can even dish out shovelling advice.

"The first thing you're going to have to make sure your legs are properly planted."

Even with the mess of snow, Miller said there's plenty of upsides to living in Gander.

"It's a great place to rear a family," he said. "I find courage, and strength and look on the brighter side. At least we're not sick, we're healthy. So I keep doing what I'm doing and a little bit of fun."

Plenty of people in Gander could be seen out moving the snow on Tuesday, by shovel or by snowblower — even if some had some ideas for a better way to do it.

"I'd like somebody to come with the hot water and get rid of it," laughed Calvin Way.

"I'd bring it to St. John's, cause they're having plenty of rain, so it'll melt pretty quick," added Greg Parrott.

Crews hard at work

The spring snowfall is spread throughout all of the town's streets, and it means a lot of work for plow operators, according to Gander Coun. Robert Anstey.

But just where does all of that snow go? According to Anstey, it ends up pretty close to home.

"We don't truck it away," said Anstey, who is also the chair of the town's public works committee.

"We take the plows, we push it to one side … then we'll come down when everything clears up and we'll come out with the blowers and we'll blow it in across the lawns."

Gander residents might be able to spot a ridge on the top of the metres of snow on their property — and according to Anstey, that's a sign that a blower has been by.

The town also has a reserve space of a couple of meters located between each property and the road, Anstey said. It gives them a little bit more room to work with.

"That is for snow clearing, and that's where the snow goes."

Anstey said the town's plows get a lot of their work done in the night, when traffic is down and the roadways are clear.

Crews have been flat out these last few days, he said, as they hustle to keep up with the weather.

"Our crew has worked for the last five or six days straight through, go home have a few hours sleep, come back, get at it again," he said.

"Regular shifts, overtime shifts, everybody's been moving around the clock trying to keep ahead of this snow."

Lots of work ahead

Anstey said the town is hoping to have the roads in pretty good shape on Friday. By the end of the week, temperatures in Gander are expected to rise to a high of 10 C. 

There's a bit of pressure for Gander plow operators to find and clear paths to the town's catch basins, to make sure the inevitable melt has somewhere to go — other than the road.

"If it doesn't get to the catch basins, and we get a quick melt, this water then will be in the streets, and then it will freeze … trying to get that off the street becomes another big problem."

There's one more concern for the town's fire department — ensuring that firefighters have access to the town's hydrants. Many in the town are buried under a thick blanket of snow.

The town is trying its best to clean out paths to the hydrants, but Anstey says it could be another couple of days before that work is completed.

In the meantime, Quilty has asked anyone who can lend a hand to try to dig out a path to the hydrants.

While you're at it, he says you should clear snow from windows and at least one of your doors, so you can get in and out of your home in an emergency.