Residents on the Northern Peninsula were recently left stranded and frustrated when high winds and heavy snowfall closed a series of highways connecting St. Anthony to the surrounding communities.
Some people missed work, school, or hospital appointments, while others spent up to two nights in St. Anthony because they couldn't drive the highway back to their hometown.
Don Noble, of Great Brehat, travelled to work at Woodward Motors in St. Anthony on Feb. 27. When he tried to go home after work, however, he found the highway totally blocked with snow.
“It's hard to describe, because it only looks like a cow path,” said Noble.
A friend of Noble’s got stuck in a four-wheel-drive pickup truck on the highway and had to wait for a plow to arrive before being hauled out.
“I was very frustrated. I couldn't get home; the wife was home alone ... this day and age, it shouldn't be happening. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been unable to get back and forth from work.”
Unable to get home, Noble spent the next two nights in St. Anthony with one of his brothers. Noble wasn’t expecting to be stranded and wasn’t packed for an emergency. Luckily, he and his brother wear similar size clothing.
Noble was also frustrated with the lack of communication from the Department of Transportation and Works during the highway closures. He claims to have tried calling the department for several hours for information, but didn’t get a response.
On March 1, Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for St. Barbe L'Anse aux Meadows, posted an update on Facebook regarding the highway closures. He said some additional snowblowers were hired to help with the heavy snow, on top of modifications to equipment owned by the transportation department.
“TW has been actively working on addressing the accumulation of snow and blocked roads over the past 24 hours,” Mitchelmore stated on his post. “The area has been experiencing an above normal wind and snowfall this winter.
“Our equipment availability in general is good on the Northern Peninsula with St. Anthony.”
Noble isn’t the only one who believes there was a lack of communication with the highway closures. Roy Ward, mayor of Goose Cove, said he didn’t know there was a problem until he saw the state of the highway.
“When the machine didn’t show up on the road, then you ask questions: where was the blower? Why aren’t the roads being widened out? We learned then that there were problems,” said Ward.
“It probably would have been better to give someone a heads up ... if we had a heads up it could have solved a few headaches for people trying to get back and forth to work.”
Ward had family members who were affected by the closed highways.
“My wife and daughter work in St. Anthony, they just had to stay in St. Anthony in order to get to work. They just couldn’t travel back and forth,” he said.
No one from the Department of Transportation and Works was available to comment by our deadline.