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City of St. John's extends state of emergency to Thursday

Wednesday, January 22nd 2020, 6:18 pm - You can get a taxi and even a flight, but restrictions remain.

St. John's and surrounding communities are in Day 6 of the state of emergency caused by last Friday's blizzard, but the city has eased some restrictions to allow people broader access to food, health services and other essentials.

The city says the state of emergency will remain in effect until 6 a.m. on Saturday. The city will make another announcement on Friday.

For Thursday there are no changes to travel restrictions, taxis, or pharmacies and food stores, but all medical, health and dental practitioners, as well as veterinarians, are now permitted to open as of 8 a.m.

Early Wednesday, St. John's International Airport opened for the first time since a record-smashing blizzard brought daily life in eastern Newfoundland to a standstill with hurricane-force winds that kept equipment off roads and highways during critical hours of the storm.

"We're getting there," St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said Wednesday, as crews directed their efforts toward feeder streets. Main thoroughfares are now open, Breen said.

Taxis are also back on the road Wednesday, and most medical clinics have been given the go-ahead to open.

Supermarkets — the sites of frantic shopping Tuesday, as thousands of people poured through the doors to buy milk, bread and other items for the first time since last week — will be open again for an eight-hour period. Exemptions to the state of emergency, which was put in place Friday, have also been made for pharmacies, convenience stores and gas stations.

Breen said he understands that some residents are wondering why the city didn't let people know that certain stores would be open again Wednesday, potentially avoiding the long lines seen at some stores Tuesday.

"It's a good question. We didn't know they would be open today," he said Wednesday.


Breen said it's still too early to speculate if businesses exempted from the state of emergency mandatory closures will be open Thursday.

Schools, though, will remain closed for the rest of the week, and many streets are still so choked with snow that they can't accommodate Metrobus vehicles. Breen said Metrobus managers are working on a plan to get the streets "to a point where we can get them back."

Provincial government offices will also remain closed for the remainder of the week, but executive and ministerial staff will report to work on Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic also made the call to remain closed until Monday.

Breen urged caution for residents who are anxious to get back to normal.

"I think it's manageable there now, but we do want people — if they don't have to go out, [unless] it's something essential they have to do in those places — that they stay off the roads," he said.

Premier Dwight Ball said the priority Wednesday is widening the roads in preparation for the next snowfall.

"It is January," he said.

Government offices remain closed, and the state of emergency means many businesses cannot legally open.

Nearby Mount Pearl is open for business, but recreational facilities remain closed. Nonetheless, Mayor Dave Aker is asking people to stay home unless necessary.

"Be patient. Only go out if you have to," Aker said. He added the city is struggling to move snow out of the way and now has to remove it with dump trucks.

"It's becoming extremely difficult now to pile snow," he said.


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 assistance.

Of the approximately 450 tasks assigned to CAF members in the St. John's area so far, Pelletier said the 27 teams on the ground have managed to complete roughly 380.

Pelletier said as of Wednesday there is no timeline for military assistance to stop in Newfoundland, adding that the province is assessing daily whether the help is still needed.

"I had the chance to see quite a few troops since yesterday, we went to see troops at work this morning, and I can tell that they're very happy and excited to have the opportunity to help their own citizens here in Atlantic Canada," he said.

Pelletier said he was impressed with the local reserve men and women who jumped at the call for action even while being vulnerable to the storm themselves.

"The fact that they were leaving their loved ones behind, probably some of them in need as well, to come here and get ready and be out there Sunday to support the city of St. John's, it was a great reaction and I'm very proud of them," he said.

Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Derrick Bragg said the direct line set up to reach military assistance has been bogged down by non-priority calls, 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.

Bragg said other people have been calling for assistance to clear their sheds, and some on vacation out of the province asking if their cars could be shovelled out.

"But I cannot stress enough, this line is set up for support for vulnerable people who need to get out of their home, who have not been out since Friday," he said.

For those seeking priority assistance call 311, 709-754-2489 or 709-729-3703, for hearing impaired text 709-691-9493.

Bragg said he's aware of the issue of trying to get through on the phone lines, but has also reached out to the Canadian Red Cross to set up an additional line for help, hoping to have it ready later on Wednesday.


Earlier Wednesday, officials said family doctor and specialist clinics would be open Wednesday in St. John's to lessen the pressure on emergency rooms. But Eastern Health said it's still offering only emergency services at its hospitals.

Meanwhile, if you're expecting a package in the mail, don't hold your breath. Canada Post said it's holding off on deliveries until the state of emergency is lifted, and afterward people can expect "significant delivery delays" as the agency plays catchup.

Heating oil deliveries, however, resume Wednesday. Chris Forward of Harvey's Home Heating said although the company has oil in stock, the company and the city both agreed streets were too narrow until Wednesday to make deliveries.

"These are big trucks. They're loaded with 11,000 to 18,000 litres of diesel fuel," Forward said.

Newfoundland snowstorm Bruce Tilley CBC Premier Dwight Ball said the priority is widening city roads in preparation for the next snowfall. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The City of St. John's is still requesting people stay off the streets as much as possible to facilitate snow removal.

Breen said the nearly week-long state of emergency order means both businesses and the municipal budget will take a hit, calling the loss of income "significant."

Ball said 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," he said.

Ball said there's been no cost to the province for military aid.

This article was originally published by CBC News


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