Armed Forces being mobilized to help Eastern Newfoundland dig out

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal government is mobilizing the Armed Forces to help Newfoundland and Labrador dig out from the monster blizzard that paralyzed eastern regions of the province with record breaking amounts of snow as forecasts call for more snow tonight.

Premier Dwight Ball asked for Ottawa’s help on Saturday, and the federal government confirmed within hours it was working to deploy all available resources on the ground in St. John’s.

Canadian Armed Forces Operations confirmed that units were being sent from Gagetown to help out in the affected communities, and to join with local reserves in St. John’s.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said at a news conference in Winnipeg that two Cormorant helicopters, at least one Griffin helicopter and two Hercules aircraft have been deployed to Newfoundland.

“What you’ll see is probably by the end of today (Sunday), you’ll have about 150 to 200 personnel on the ground ready to provide support. This could surge up to anywhere between 250 to 300 by tomorrow and the coming days,” he said.

Their expected tasks will include assisting with snow removal, providing residents with transportation to warming or emergency centres, and ensuring the elderly and those with health concerns are cared for.

Some municipalities including St. John’s, Conception Bay South and Mount Pearl eased their states of emergency Sunday to allow people to re-stock on emergency supplies after days of being snowed in.

St. John’s said its state of emergency would remain in place Monday, with exception for private snow clearing contractors, gas stations to help with snow removal and pharmacies for emergency medication needs.

In the meantime, residents pitched in to assist home-bound neighbours who had reached out for help on social media.

Jessica Pynn’s west end St. John’s neighbourhood was buried under snow by Friday evening as she and her fiancé dealt with their 13-month-old daughter’s unexpected fever.

The family ran out of medicine and Pynn took to a neighbourhood Facebook group asking for help once the skies were clear.

“Within one hour, a lady I had never met before was at my front door with a full bottle of medicine and a box of popsicles,” Pynn said by email.

Her daughter’s fever was brought under control by Sunday morning and Pynn said she feels “blessed” to live in a place where neighbours cheerily trek through unplowed streets to help those in need.

“If it wasn’t for these kind people, I don’t know what I would do,” Pynn said. “There would be absolutely no way we would be able to leave here by vehicle and she probably would have (gotten) a lot more sick.”

Meanwhile, a search resumed Sunday morning for a man who went missing during the weekend storm, with the RCMP asking people in the area of Roaches’ Line to check sheds, vehicles and other structures on their properties in case 26-year-old Joshua Wall has taken shelter there.

The RCMP in Bay Roberts said Wall disappeared after leaving his home in Roaches Line, about 70 kilometres west of the capital of St. John’s, on Friday to walk through a wooded area to a friend’s home in nearby Marysvale.

On Sunday morning, an RCMP spokeswoman said the search area has expanded as police now believe Wall may have made it out of the wooded area and back on to the Roaches’ Line roadway, following a reported sighting of a man last night.

Glenda Power said Saturday’s search in the area with heavy snow drifts required snowmobiles and an Argo all-terrain vehicle.

Newfoundland Power crews continued working overnight to reconnect about 3,500 customers blacked out during the height of the storm, and St. John’s International Airport issued a release Saturday that there would be no flights before Sunday evening at the earliest.

And there was one more bit of unwelcome news, as Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the St. John’s area, saying at least 15 centimetres of snow was expected to fall between Sunday night and Monday morning.

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