Snowmageddon: Lessons Learned

‘When there are that many people gathered in one place and seeking the necessities of life there is always cause for concern.’ 


It was close you know. The snow crisis that was Blizzard 2020 has passed and it is time to assess the events that crippled St. John’s and surrounding areas.  In the area where I live; we were lucky. The accumulations were near 100 centimetres and while that is dangerous territory ,we were able  to deal with it.

Storm stories 

Everyone has storm stories and I won’t bore you with my mine. We had a wood stove and food and a generator. That is not to say that the blizzard of 2020 was anything we were used to. It is the worst storm and the highest accumulations of snow that I have seen.

We, like  many, were basically; trapped in our homes. There was a state of emergency declared and it was tense but after a few days we recovered. I live in Paradise so that recovery was swift. Downtown St. John’s and its warren of tiny little streets was different. It was a nightmare trying to remove snow from what my mom used to call “the back lanes”. At one point the military was called in to help with the business of helping people dig out from under the snow. 

It wasn’t chaos but it was getting close to the edge. The day that supermarkets and grocery stores re-opened could have been a nightmare because some people were starting to run out of food, but Newfoundlanders are a gentle people. It went well. 

When there are that many people gathered in one place and seeking the necessities of life there is always cause for concern. The demand was such that there was some rationing of items such as bread and milk.

Everything went relatively smoothly. There were long lineups at the markets for food and lineups at service stations for fuel, but the weather turned and stayed clear for consecutive  days. Slowly the city clawed its way back to  “normal“. Taxis and buses returned. People went back to work.

NL’s breaking point?

As an aside here I should share with you the Paradise experience where supermarkets were open on Monday and there were even milk deliveries from the dairies which were located outside of St. John’s. Paradise, because of its geography, and generally flat terrain  returned to everyday life much more quickly than hilly and tangled St. John’s.

Now here is the question I ask myself.  What would have happened had we had a SECOND 100 centimetres of snow? What happens to me without power  buried in snow kilometres from the main road for an extended period? What happens to all the seniors and the people hard pressed to look after themselves?

At what point does the whole thing break down? 

How close were we to that?  I don’t know the answer, but Blizzard 2020 showed us how tenuous is our hold on `an orderly functioning civilization. The snow stopped just in time and the skies cleared to let us clean up. That is not to say that there is not a lesson learned and a great sigh of relief.   

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