Churchill calls state of emergency after days-long snow storm
Published Saturday, March 11, 2017 2:09PM CST Last Updated Saturday, March 11, 2017 6:40PM CST
The fallout of the massive storm that dumped several feet of snow in northern Manitoba continues to disrupt services in Churchill.
The Town of Churchill declared a local state of emergency Friday night.
Deputy Mayor Shane Hutchins told CTV News that the “unprecedented” storm lasted three days, bringing 60-80 centimetres of snow and winds gusting between 100 and 120 kilometres per hour.
Snow drifts as high as 25 feet in some places have made roads impassable, he said.
“It’s staggering, the scale of the snow. I’ve lived here 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Via Rail announced it had cancelled its Saturday departure of the train from Churchill to Winnipeg due to the closure of the railway. Hutchins said Omnitrax cancelled its inbound train on Thursday, but he expects the train scheduled for this Thursday to arrive.
He also said the manager of the Northern Store has arranged for a shipment of supplies to be flown in sometime this weekend.
“I think we’ll be ok,” he said.
The unprecedented storm has required an unprecedented response, Hutchins said. Crews have been working “tirelessly” since 2 a.m. Thursday, working to clear roads.
People slept at the local water treatment plant and health centre to make sure services were maintained.
Residents of Churchill have also gone “above and beyond” to help each other, said Hutchins. Neighbours have dug tunnels through the snow to get people out of their homes, and members of the local Interdisciplinary Centre for the Development of Ocean Mapping travelled around on Ski-Doo to deliver heaters to people after their furnaces blew.
“It was a real proud moment for our community in terms of the ability to keep things going,” said Hutchins.
Overall, Hutchins said the mood in the town is upbeat.
“After everyone started digging themselves out of their houses there yesterday, you know the store reopened yesterday, and there was a lot of happy, smiling faces in the store, which was pretty packed yesterday. So you see a lot of, I think, community, a lot of smiling people, people stopping on the roads and just commiserating about the storm.”
Hutchins estimates it will take about a week to get roads back to normal. Many streets have only one lane clear, and some facilities, like the water station, still need a path cleared.