Fort Erie, Ont., digs out after crippling 2-day blizzard

Residents in Fort Erie, Ont., and surrounding areas in the southern Niagara region face the massive Christmas Day task of digging out after a two-day blizzard that has wreaked havoc with power and travel. 

Thousands of customers still without power in the Niagara region

A car is seen blanketed by snow.
A car is seen blanketed by snow in Fort Erie, Ont., on Sunday. (Submitted by Nicole Toth)

Residents in Fort Erie, Ont., and surrounding areas in the southern Niagara region face the massive Christmas Day task of digging out after a two-day blizzard that has wreaked havoc with power and travel.

"The storm, after two days, has ended," Emanuele Garau posted on Twitter, with a picture of snow piled up against the side of his house. 

Like thousands of residents there, he was out of power and heat for 30 hours and, when contacted by CBC Hamilton Sunday morning, was with his wife and four-year-old daughter in their car. They were waiting for roads to be clear enough to drive to the warming centres the town is preparing to open. 

At 11: 30 a.m. ET, he said his power had just come back on. 

"We are happy but we cannot still get to grocery stores because the roads are bad," he said. 

Snow against a home.

Municipal, emergency and utility crews were all out Sunday as the storm had finally let up.

"All [Canadian Niagara Power, CNP] crews, with assistance arriving from out of town, are in the field working on restoring power," mayor Wayne Redekop told CBC Sunday morning. 

CNP said on social media that it started Sunday with approximately 14,000 customers in the region without electricity. By later in the afternoon, Redekop told CBC News he was informed 6,700 were still without power.

The town said it was planning to open a warming station at the Leisureplex, at 3 Municipal Centre Dr., with an estimated opening time of Noon. "If you are out on the roads please be safe," it said. 

Snow covers a residence.
Snow and ice cover a residence in Crystal Beach, Ont., on Sunday. (Submitted by Melissa Dubois)

The Niagara region, which includes Fort Erie, Crystal Beach, Port Colborne and Wainfleet, declared a state of emergency Saturday after non-stop wind and snow battered areas close to Lake Erie and the U.S. border. An estimated 15,000 people were without power, many since Friday morning.

The Peace Bridge and a large section of the QEW highway were forced to close. Flooding caused some residents to evacuate their homes near the water. Police vehicles and plows were themselves stuck in snowdrifts and had to be abandoned over the past two days. 

"Trucks are rolling. Our teams are fully deployed, and more help is coming our way," CNP said Sunday. 

WATCH | Niagara declare state of emergency: 

2 Ontario regions declare state of emergency amid storm chaos

3 months ago
Duration 2:32
Niagara, Chatham-Kent in southern Ontario have states of emergency in place as blizzard conditions cause power outages and road blockages.

Resident Joanie Odding told CBC Saturday she hadn't seen or felt anything like these conditions in the 52 years she's lived there.

"It's so cold. The wind is so cold. It hurts your face. I like to walk in the snow but I've never seen it like this, for so long," she said. 

Across the border in Erie County, N.Y., which includes Buffalo, a countywide driving ban remained in place Sunday as that state also dug themselves out.

Const. Philip Gavin with Niagara Regional Police Service said Sunday police were appealing for a bit more patience to allow plows to keep clearing roads before going out. "If you go out and get stuck, you are compounding [the problem]," he said. 

He said some plows have had to stop because of the many cars abandoned in the middle of the road. At least three police vehicles were also left, stuck in the snow, as officers tried to respond to calls over the past two days.

"It did reach a point where... it wasn't possible for us to respond to calls."

Gavin said final numbers weren't yet available of how many incidents may have been caused by the storm but that anecdotally there were "some personal injury collisions." 

"We certainly hope that there wasn't significant impact."


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