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City hires wind whizzes to solve snow snafu

Consultants paid $35,000 for advice on winter-damaged homes



The City of Iqaluit hopes a team of experts from Ontario will be able to make things better for several residents of the Road to Nowhere subdivision whose houses have been damaged by wind and drifting snow.

For a fee of $35,000, the snow and wind specialists will offer advice on how to prevent snow from accumulating and endangering the affected homes.

A team, from Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc., a specialty engineering firm based in Guelph, Ont., will visit Iqaluit for three days in August.

“This will give them the opportunity to go to the site and speak with the residents and with elders and city staff,” said Michele Bertol, the city’s director of planning.

The team was in town this past January and were able to witness the situation at its worst, says Bertol, and are coming this time with a preliminary report in hand.

Using a combination of wind pattern study and analysis of the lay of the land, the company will advise the city on how to improve the current fence or ways to construct a more effective one.

Their report will be ready in September, giving the city enough time to put their recommendations in place before harsh weather hits.

But for residents of the Road To Nowhere, who have seen the toll taken on their houses and fear being trapped in their homes, it’s too little, too late.

“They should have done this way before they developed this area,” said Jeannie Kullualik, who owns one of the affected homes. “The damage is done, it’s too late.”

She remembers how elders had warned the city not to build on this area, which sits atop the hill with streets named “Anuri” and “Aputi”, Inuktitut for “wind” and “snow.”

Kullualik moved into her home 18 months ago and has watched two winters crack her siding, loosen her floor’s ceramic tiles and destroy her balcony. She said the fence the city erected last year did help at times to dull the blow of the elements.

“Usually we get winds from the northeast, but last winter we had more winds from the south so the fence couldn’t really do anything,” she said.

Although she sees the unpredictability of the weather as a major obstacle, she has heard that snow fencing has worked to keep snow off the road and away from houses in Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake.

The team coming to Ottawa is the same crew that was responsible for the successful fencing in Baker Lake. The company has been doing snowdrift analysis in the Arctic for 25 years.

Bertol says the snow fence that was erected last January, at a cost of $40,000, was always intended to be a temporary measure. “It did help some, but obviously it didn’t resolve the matter,” she said.

The 16-foot tall fence has fallen into disrepair after withstanding the winter and being vandalized, resulting in holes in the plastic netting.
Kullualik is going to stick out the winter and has no plans to try to sell her house, but she does have her own solution for the problem. “It’d be great if they would build a row of condos behind my house and then I’d be fine,” she said.

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