Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Digging out

Clean-up from massive multi-day storm continues

  • February 14 2024
  • By Corey LeBlanc    

GUYSBOROUGH COUNTY – In the aftermath of a multi-day, record-breaking winter storm that swept across the region Feb. 3-5, something else was left behind – other than seemingly mile-high piles of snow.

Boundless examples of the community spirit that makes living here so special.

“It is great to see neighbours lending a hand to each other as we always do in Nova Scotia,” Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Deputy CAO Shawn Andrews, who also serves as emergency management coordinator, told The Journal in a post-storm email interview.

“The odd baked good or cup of coffee was exchanged a time or two, I have been told, as a sign of sincerest thanks for helping out a friend, whether it was plowing, shoveling or just a quick check in.

“It was a storm to remember,” he added.

And one not soon forgotten, considering many residents are continuing to tackle the snow removal process; one expected only to continue with another winter blast scheduled to hit the province on Tuesday (Feb. 13) and Wednesday (Feb. 14).

“Everyone went the extra mile,” MODG Warden Vernon Pitts said, in commending residents for “checking in” on their neighbours, family and friends.

Bearing in mind the magnitude of the storm, he added, “Everyone has done their best,” including the provincial and municipal public works’ crews that have been carrying out the clean-up.

In the neighbouring Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, officials shared the same sentiments; commending everyone who has pitched in.

Warden Greg Wier praised the effort of not only provincial road crews, but also private snow removal operators and “the many friends and neighbours who worked long hours in the last week to clear roads and help all of us deal with the heavy snow we just experienced…”

One of the areas in which this collective effort was invaluable was in helping residents – particularly the vulnerable, including those with health issues – who were snowed in.

“We have been advised that all requests for assistance have been actioned,” Andrews said in the Tuesday morning (Feb. 13) update.

He explained that, through provincial efforts, MODG residents in such a situation were asked to advise the municipal office of their situation and needs; information that was then provided to the provincial coordination centre for emergency management.

In St. Mary’s, there is no word of any residents still needing to be dug out, according to CAO Doug Patterson, while noting that – from the municipal perspective – the main priority has been “monitoring public needs.”

“A key action the municipality could take to support residents after a serious weather event could be to activate comfort centres. We would normally activate comfort stations, if there was a period of extended power outage after a storm event. Fortunately, we did not experience long lasting power outages,” he explained.

“The most common problem the municipality heard from the public was a longer wait than usual for all streets to be cleared. The storm also created unusual challenges for people in clearing their own driveways and walkways due to the volume of snow.”

Speaking of power, Andrews noted that any outages in MODG were rectified by last Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 6).

“A huge thank you to NSP (Nova Scotia Power) for all of their efforts to get power restored as quickly as possible in this most difficult of situations. It was a coordinated effort by all of those involved, especially with provincial public works clearing the path for the power trucks,” he added.

As for road conditions, Andrews said – thanks to the provincial public works department – all were open in the municipality.

“However, winging back appears to now be the priority, which may be slowed, as more snow is on the way,” he noted.

As officials in St. Mary’s mentioned, snow removal from streets – particularly the length of time it has taken to do so – has been an issue for residents across the province, including MODG; not to mention prioritization of areas to be plowed.

“First and foremost, residents must understand that the storm event that occurred last week has not happened in at least 30 years, some would argue in the last 100 years. We had a major snowfall event that affected every corner of the municipality,” Warden Pitts told The Journal in response to criticism of the process.

He noted that the MODG – and the province – were put in a situation where they were “facing a major negative event with very limited resources,” while commending both provincial and municipal public works’ crews for “doing a great job.”

Pitts added that clearing sidewalks is a “priority” of MODG but explained that they are only plowed after the provincial public works department clears Route 16.

“During snow clearing operations, snow is plowed and winged back directly on the sidewalks. Final clearing and salting of sidewalks is done after snow clearing is completed by DPW, and in conjunction with their operations.”

On the heels of this recent blast from Mother Nature, and with another expected to pass through this week, Warden Wier reminded everyone of the importance of preparedness.

“Winter safety is something the municipality urges all residents to carefully plan for; winter storms can make travel unsafe and even impossible. Residents should be prepared to shelter at home until roads are clear and it’s safe to travel. I urge residents to monitor the weather and be prepared.”