Big blizzard brings snow, jokes, chaos to Nunavut capital

“Who needs curtains when you have snow drifts”


Stop that storm: after poor weather quashed many St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Iqaluit, Iqalungmiut woke up March 18 to their third blizzard in two weeks. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Stop that storm: after poor weather quashed many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Iqaluit, Iqalungmiut woke up March 18 to their third blizzard in two weeks. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

This simulation (posted by Iqaluit's Franco Buscemi on Twitter) shows a toy car ramming into a drift — something many in Iqaluit did during the blizzard.

This simulation (posted by Iqaluit’s Franco Buscemi on Twitter) shows a toy car ramming into a drift — something many in Iqaluit did during the blizzard.

(Updated, March 20 at 7:15 a.m.)

A blizzard with a name? This week’s blizzard in Iqaluit, which started March 17 and blew until March 19 at 1 p.m, when Environment Canada finally removed the blizzard warning, ended up with at least a couple of monikers: Patrick, probably because it ruined planned St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and Qaggiq because it took place during the Qaggiavuut arts gathering in Iqaluit.

The blizzard was the third to take place in Nunavut’s capital over the past two weeks.

And, when Iqaluit residents weren’t looking at the snow piling up outside their windows or digging out, many went onto social media to share their photos and frustrations.

Showing a photo of her snow-filled window, Kim Masson declared on Twitter — with the hashtag #snow hobbits — that “we are officially one with the snow hill from the empty lot beside us.”

Brian Tattuinee posted a photo of his window blocked with snow, joking “who needs curtains when you have snow drifts.”

Franco Buscemi posted a video of the blizzard that showed a toy car moving over a child’s mat showing a road, and then slamming into an icy snowdrift.

That was reality played out around Iqaluit, where many vehicles went off the road or were buried in snow.

Meanwhile, starting March 17, schools, offices, daycares and businesses closed, while events, including the Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut food bank’s distribution to those in need, were postponed, and flights were cancelled.

Anne Crawford of Apex boarded a Canadian North flight March 17 in Ottawa bound to Iqaluit. She said the airline told her and 49 passengers that they would return to Ottawa if the weather in Iqaluit turned nasty — but then that plan changed — and the passengers learned the flight would be re-directed to Rankin Inlet instead.

Crawford, who later flew to Yellowknife and Edmonton, let go her frustration in a series of tweets, saying those onboard the flight were “told we will get home in 4 days.”

Due to the storm, the City of Iqaluit went into its “blizzard mode,” advising residents that the city was suspending all municipal services” until further notice, due to severe weather conditions.”

Many residents who depend on trucked services for water and sewage services started to run out of water by March 19. One resident described how he was melting ice from his ice maker to boil some coffee.

The blizzard was no fun either for the city crews, who were out trying to clear roads March 19 — and returned starting at 2 a.m. March 20 to continue the monumental snow removal job.

“Please stay off the roads. Even when the blizzard ends, please heed City’s notices and give City road crews a chance to clear the roads. After 3 days of high winds there are many areas of town with drifts and poor visibility,” said Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern in a Facebook posting early March 19.

“Road crews have a hard time seeing both vehicles and especially pedestrians when it is windy. Also stuck vehicles make it very hard for crews to do their job. City will update residents when it is safe to go out on the roads.”

The municipal workers’ job became even more difficult midday March 19 when a fire hydrant at building 2223 began spewing water.

That prompted the City of Iqaluit utilidor department to call an emergency water shutdown affecting the 2700s and 4000s at Tundra Valley and Road to Nowhere.

“There will be no running water until further notice. The water shutdown is necessary to repair a broken water hydrant. Work is estimated to take approximately two hours to complete,” said the city whose municipal workers were able to fix everything by 3 p.m. March 19.

During the blizzard, the city said it would continue to provide fire and ambulance services “unless it is deemed unsafe and/or impossible to do so.”

But delays could be expected due to weather conditions, the city said.

The city also asked people not to venture outside due to weather conditions.

However, many said they were angry that the Government of Nunavut didn’t move early March 18 to close its Iqaluit offices until after many had already headed out to work in deteriorating conditions.

A similar response surfaced in 2013 when the GN kept its offices open as city crews struggled to clean up snow-clogged streets after an overnight blizzard, despite an advisory from the city asking people and vehicles to stay off the roads.

Services resumed in Iqaluit late March 19 but households using trucked services were asked to conserve water: “Our primary objective is to restore water delivery and removal of wastewater as soon as reasonably possible,” said the city update, which also warned that owners of vehicles left on the road and impeding traffic during snow-clearing operations could expect to be fined and have their vehicles removed and impounded.

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