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'A pretty horrible winter' that Newfoundland put up with in 1987

It may have been just days before the start of spring, but that didn't matter much to the people living out on The Rock.

Spring was near, but it wasn't like Old Man Winter had gone anywhere

A winter to forget in Newfoundland

36 years ago
Duration 0:45
Winter was still going strong in N.L., as spring approached in 1987.

It may have been just days before the start of spring, but that didn't matter much to the winter-weary people living out on The Rock.

"Back in Newfoundland, people have been going through a pretty horrible winter," said Knowlton Nash, when explaining the situation to viewers on The National on March 18, 1987.

"They've dug their way out of more snow in the last few months than just about anyone can remember."

Then came the kicker from the veteran news anchor.

"Few would have thought it could get much worse — but it did," said Nash.

'One big ice block'

Icebreakers going 'full-tilt' in N.L.

36 years ago
Duration 1:02
The ice was keeping icebreakers busy in March 1987.

That's because at that point, an estimated 90 per cent of the Island was "socked in," according to reporter Kathryn Wright.

"This year, almost the entire ocean that surrounds Newfoundland is one big ice block," Wright said, noting that same ice was three metres thick in some places.

The ice, understandably, was causing hold-ups for fishing vessels, tankers and other ships. It was also creating a lot of ongoing work for icebreakers.

"Throughout the past month, dozens of vessels have been stuck for days at a time," said Wright. "Trips that normally take one or two days now take up to two weeks."

Captain Paddy Chafe said Newfoundland had to deal with the occasional "bad year" of ice. And the 1986-1987 winter was one of those times. (The National/CBC Archives)

It was a scenario that Paddy Chafe, the captain of an icebreaking ship, said the region was familiar with.

"Every two or three years, we strike a bad year on the Newfoundland coast and this is one of them," Chafe said.

Inconvenience and also danger

Inconvenient ice

36 years ago
Duration 0:49
The ice that had built up around much of N.L. was inconvenient to many, but also posed some dangers.

And while the ice was making life inconvenient for some, it was also potentially putting some lives in danger.

On Fogo Island, N.L., the combination of the ice and bad weather had left the island unable to receive supplies for an entire week.

The Coast Guard was doing what it could, having put eight icebreakers to work on the ice problem.

But as Wright put it "the only thing that's going to clean up this mess are mild temperatures and a change in winds to push this ice far away from these shores."

The ice had been building up around Newfoundland over the 1986-1987 winter, including in the Conception Bay area. (The National/CBC Archives)

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