Storm put essential services to the test

Journal Pioneer staff
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On an ordinary winter's day, a household announcement that the plow's going by would hardly illicit as much as a shrug, but on Thursday afternoon such a report was sure to bring homeowners to the window.

As winter storms go, Wednesday's was a whopper, causing many Islanders to be cooped up at home for a full 24 hours. Some even endured without electricity while the wind howled and the snowdrifts grew.

Storms such as this show us just how vital of a service our plow operators, electrical utility linemen and other people in essential services provide.

They're also a reminder that those people who brave the elements to open our roads, restore power or respond to emergencies are only human. There are limits to what they can do. They cannot open roads when visibility is nil. Linemen can't do their jobs safely in such bitter conditions.

When it's not safe for plows to be on the road, it's not safe for passenger vehicles to be on the go either. There were times after the plows were called off the roads due to poor visibility that some operators had to venture back out to free stranded motorists.

The RCMP was issuing reminders throughout the storm urging people to stay off the roads unless it was absolutely essential for them to venture out.

We don't suspect everyone who was on the roads during the storm absolutely had to be there. Police also advised that if people got in trouble and needed help, help might not be able to reach them.

That was true even in some emergencies. A house in South Rustico burned Wednesday night while firefighters spent three hours with the aid of plows and private equipment trying to reach the scene. It was a helpless situation for both the homeowner and for the emergency personnel who were trying to respond.

Hillsborough Bridge became a danger zone at the height of the storm with accidents and stranded vehicles. Coming to a standstill on a bridge of all places because of zero visibility becomes all the more scary when one considers other vehicles might still be moving, maybe even big ones.

Reports indicate responding to the situation on the bridge was dangerous even for emergency personnel.

Now that the storm has passed - and hopefully it's the last big one of the season - Islanders have an opportunity to reflect on the work of people in essential services and, for some, to consider if they really had to venture out during the worst blizzard of the season, especially when they had lots of advance notice of what was coming.

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: South Rustico

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