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When the ice just kept building up around Newfoundland in 1983

The winter-long buildup of ice was causing lots of problems in Newfoundland as spring approached in 1983.

Ice buildup stranded ferries and ships, left communities cut off and caused flooding

So much ice in Newfoundland

40 years ago
Duration 2:31
Ice was causing a lot of problems for Newfoundland in early 1983.

There was nothing nice about all the ice, particularly for the people having to charter a helicopter to go anywhere.

"Pack ice and icebergs continue to imprison whole areas of Newfoundland," the CBC's Knowlton Nash told viewers on The National on March 1, 1983.

"Ships and communities have been left stranded and food airlifts have started."

Nash explained that the ice-related problems extended to inland communities in some cases, where flooding had resulted.

The CBC's Barbara Yaffe provided an overview of some of those problems.

Like in Badger, N.L., where a demolition team had tried to remove an ice jam — unsuccessfully, unfortunately.

"The crew will try another blast tomorrow," said Yaffe, as viewers saw film footage of the explosion, as well as aerial footage of the flooding in the community.

The Globe and Mail reported that 70 per cent of Badger was flooded. At least 40 families had to leave their homes as a result, according to the paper.

'Like being in jail'

Bill Hunt said the situation that kept Bell Island residents from leaving was a bit like "being in jail." (The National/CBC Archives)

Food was being flown into Bell Island, which was cut off from the mainland and without ferry service as a result of the ice. The only way in or out was by helicopter.

"It's just like being in jail, you know? That's what it's like," said Bill Hunt, a Bell Island resident.

The Canadian Coast Guard had four icebreakers working on the east coast of Newfoundland, but they could only do so much.

"They're not doing too well because the conditions are so severe, they're pretty well stopped," said coast guard Capt. Gordon Warren.

"It's pretty well brought shipping to a standstill."

Catch diverted

Icebreakers were doing what they could to deal with the ice that had built up around in Newfoundland in 1983, but they could only do so much. (The National/CBC Archives)

Fishing trawlers couldn't make their way through the ice around Newfoundland either, prompting some of them to haul their catch to other processing sites.

That led to hundreds of layoffs at two Newfoundland plants, after National Sea Products sent some of its fish to a Nova Scotia plant.

"Unless there's a real break in the weather, both of these plants employing these people could be out of operation for up to the next two weeks," said Sandy Roche of National Sea Products, estimating around 700 people had been affected by the layoffs.

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