Newfoundland asks for military help after record blizzard

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland (AP) — Newfoundland’s premier asked for the Canadian military’s help Saturday as residents of the province’s capital struggled to tunnel out from homes buried by the heaviest snowfall ever recorded in St. John’s.

Premier Dwight Ball said he had asked for the federal government’s assistance, including mobilizing the armed forces, after the blizzard battered eastern Newfoundland.

Rob Carroll, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said St. John’s had experienced a one-day snowfall of 76.2 centimeters (30 inches), breaking the previous record of 68.4 centimeters (27 inches) on April 5, 1999.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, said search teams were looking for 26-year-old Joshua Wall, who remained missing after leaving his home in Roaches Line, a small community about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the capital, to walk to a friend’s home.

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St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen said he has lived in the city most of his life and has never seen a storm of this magnitude.

“I’ve never seen the combination of the amount of snow, the rate of snowfall and the wind speed that we’ve had here over the past couple of days,” Breen said.

Winds at the St. John’s International Airport were recorded at between 120 and 157 kph (75 and 98 mph) at the height of the storm.

Early Saturday morning when the snowplow came to clear his street, Breen said, he could hear the vehicle but he couldn’t see it because there was so much snow.

He said he is about 178 centimeters tall (5-foot-8), and “the snow in front of my front step is over my head. I can’t see either one of my cars in the driveway.”

Intense snowfall brought St. John’s and many other communities to a standstill Friday, then slowed overnight and ended in the capital Saturday morning.

The City of St. John’s and several nearby communities declared states of emergency late Friday morning that remained in effect, Breen couldn’t say when officials might lift the state of emergency order, which required businesses to close and all non-emergency vehicles to stay off streets.

“The roads are impassable and that’s it, there’s nothing that can be done,” Andrew Piercey, a dispatcher with Jiffy Cabs in St. John’s, said at midday.

He described an exhausting walk through snowdrifts to get to work, spending more than an hour to travel about a mile. When he got to work, he realized there were no taxis to dispatch.

“I’ve done some stupid things, but that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.

Widespread power outages were reported. Newfoundland Power said during the night that its crews were working to restore electricity for about 21,000 customers.

At the peak of the storm, which some people described as being like a blizzard in a hurricane, even snowplows were pulled off roads as zero-visibility dropped to near zero. Plowing resumed in St. John’s overnight.

Air traffic in the region was also shut down Friday, and the airport issued a statement saying there would be no flights until at least 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

St. John’s Fire Chief Sherry Colford said that considering the amount of snow that fell and the intensity of the winds, damage in the city had been minimal.

Late Friday, an avalanche sent snow rushing into one home in the city’s Battery district, but the residents were able to escape without injury.

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