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St. John's State of Emergency expected to be lifted Saturday

Thursday, January 23rd 2020, 9:44 am - Damages after historic storm still unknown, but C.B.S. mayor says it'll cost millions

People are still digging out of their homes amid the ongoing state of emergency in the capital following Friday's record-breaking blizzard, and some officials are beginning to estimate the cost of the disaster.

Thursday marks seven days since a state of emergency shut down St. John's, and while other surrounding communities have lifted their orders, officials are advising things won't be back to normal any time soon.

"It's played significant havoc," said Conception Bay South Mayor Terry French.

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French estimates the town needs tens of millions of dollars to get back up to speed after storm surges pummelled the harbour.

"We have basically a new coastline. A new beach. Our beautiful trail system has been destroyed in many areas," French said.

CBC: The costs of Friday's blizzard are adding up as people and municipalities continue to grapple with cleanup. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"We have our storm sewers that have been torn up from the ground. The yacht club, for example, is open now to the elements. It's at the mercy of the waves and the wind."

Bonavista didn't escape a similar beating. Mayor John Norman says extensive damage to the town's sea wall will require costly repairs.

Numerous sections of the levee either failed or completely collapsed and disappeared into the ocean, Norman said, and pounding surf eroded land between the shoreline and oceanfront homes.

"Homes that used to be 30, 40 feet from the water, in some cases, their fence line is now five feet from the water," he said.

The town is pressing the federal and provincial governments for emergency financial help.

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said he hasn't yet considered how much the storm will cost the capital city, since there are more pressing matters to deal with.

"Cost right now is not a concern. We need to get the snow moved," he said.

The city will also seek financial help from Ottawa, Breen said.

Premier Dwight Ball announced Wednesday his government will work with municipalities to figure out the full costs of the emergency and discuss disaster relief.

"It'll take some time to get this all calculated," Ball said.

DAILY LIFE SLOWLY RESUMING

The City of St. John's announced it's confident the state of emergency order, which was called mid-day last Friday, will end early Saturday morning.

"We felt it was important that residents have some timeframe to work within, where they could have an expectation of when they could start getting out and around," Breen said early Thursday.

Breen said the city chose a hard date to have an "orderly transition" back to normalcy, and to give people and businesses time to prepare.

Until then, people continue to emerge from snowed-in houses, and the City of St. John's continues to lift restrictions on what can open.

Doctors, dentists and vets are allowed to operate Thursday, and taxis can run as normal.

Food stores, pharmacies and gas stations may open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Schools and government offices remain closed, but executive-level officials must report to work.

On Wednesday afternoon, Brig.-Gen. Roch Pelletier said the Canadian Armed Forces effort in Newfoundland is still receiving an influx of calls from those needing help getting out of their homes.

The emergency operations centre has logged over 1,000 calls since opening earlier this week, according to the province.

Newfoundland snow - UGC - Glenn Newfoundland snowbank. Courtesy: Glenn, user submitted via The Weather Network

Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Derrick Bragg said the direct line set up to reach military units has been bogged down by non-priority calls, such as people on vacation asking for their cars to be dug out, making it difficult for military members to reach those who are in need of priority assistance.

"I'll give you an example, earlier this morning we went and we visited a gentleman 89 years old. He's ex-military, he's got a son with a disability, he was snowed in he could not get out of his house," Bragg said Wednesday.

Those in need of help can call 311, 709-754-2489 or 709-729-3703, for hearing impaired text 709-691-9493.

The province added another help line, run by the Canadian Red Cross, on Thursday due to the influx of requests. That number is 1-800-863-6582 and will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

CLEARING HELP COMING FROM ALL SIDES

Army reserve units weren't the only ones landing from afar in order to help the region recover.

Jim Roberts, a heavy equipment operator from Forteau, drove to St. John's from the Big Land to help clear snow.

CBC: The province says more than 1,000 calls for help have been logged at the emergency operations centre in St. John's, with over 400 tasks completed so far. (Joint Task Force Atlantic/Twitter ) The province says more than 1,000 calls for help have been logged at the emergency operations centre in St. John's, with over 400 tasks completed so far. (Joint Task Force Atlantic/Twitter )

Roberts and a colleague brought in a front-end loader and snowblower, driving about 1,000 kilometres to help widen streets. He lugged the equipment on a trailer to the ferry crossing.

"We didn't have any issue getting over," he said. "I can see they can use the help."

Roberts says he's looking at long days. "We'll run as many hours as we can."

This article was originally published for CBC News.

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