St. John’s making headway in post-storm recovery

St. John’s and surrounding communities are entering 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.

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 allowed to 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.

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.”

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.

Heating oil deliveries, doctors back in action

Family doctor and specialist clinics can open today in St. John’s to lessen the pressure on emergency rooms, but Eastern Health says 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.

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.


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