Work continues on rebuilding a year after Thanksgiving snowmaggeddon in Manitoba

On the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2019, more than 30,000 city owned trees were damaged or downed. Branches landed on homes, on top of vehicles and took out power lines after a massive snowstorm walloped the province.

Maniotba Hydro says costs of repairing damage is $100M, while City of Winnipeg pegged cleanup at $10M

The City of Winnipeg had to call in help from other provinces to clean up trees that fell during a devastating snowstorm last Thanksgiving. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

It may be hard to remember on a beautiful Winnipeg Thanksgiving weekend, but a year ago an early snowstorm brought disaster to many Winnipeg trees — and some people are still dealing with the fallout.

On the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2019, more than 30,000 city-owned trees were damaged or downed. 

Branches landed on homes, on top of vehicles and took out power lines after a massive snowstorm walloped the province; thousands of hydro poles snapped, and entire communities were without power, some for days.

Tony Hazzard is still trying to recover from the destruction.

The Winnipegger owns the comic book business Cover to Cover, but it still doesn't have a retail space after the shop he leased for three years was destroyed by heavy snow that long weekend.

The roof and the north wall of Tony Hazzard's comic book shop had to be removed after heavy snow caused its collapse. (Cover to Cover/Facebook)

"When I opened the door, all I saw was half the ceiling was down. My middle bookshelves were pretty much holding up a good chunk of it," he said.

Hazzard recalls fluorescent lights exploding overhead as he worked to salvage what he could.

"[It was] harrowing, nerve-racking, trying to figure out what to do, what's going to happen next."

For the last year, Hazzard has been selling comics at flea markets, but when those closed because of the pandemic, he shifted to doing pickups from his home and some deliveries. He hasn't had an income since the shop closed because the money he does make goes to his bills, he said.

Hazzard finally found a shop he can afford and is moving in at the end of the month, more than a year after he lost his last one.

"It's been a trying year," he said.

Tony Hazzard is hopeful his new storefront, which is opening at the end of October, will usher in a better year of business. His last storefront was destroyed in the snowstorm of 2019. (Submitted by Tony Hazzard)

Wolseley homeowner Gitta Fricke was stuck inside her house after a neighbour's tree fell on her property last year.

A huge elm blocked her front door and the 86-year-old's son-in-law had to saw off branches so she could come and go.

There was an insurance dispute over who should pay the cost of the damaged eavestroughs, so they were just replaced a couple of weeks ago, Fricke said

Gitta Fricke says a huge elm tree collapsed under the weight of the heavy, wet snow last year. (Cory Funk/CBC)

With so many downed trees in the neighbourhood, it was a loss for the neighbourhood, Fricke said.

"We love this area mostly because we have so many trees and it's beautiful in the fall and in the spring when the leaves come out," she said.

"Any elm tree lost is sad."

Last year, the city pegged the cost of cleaning up broken and felled trees and replanting at $10 million, and officials said it would likely take a year to complete the work.

The city has not told the CBC how much replanting has taken place so far.

A Manitoba Hydro tower near Portage la Prairie folds under the pressure of the storm that dumped heavy, wet snow on the region a year ago. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Manitoba Hydro is still working on final repairs west of Portage la Prairie, Man., where lines need to be realigned, spokesperson Bruce Owen said.

The total cost of repairing hydro poles, transmission towers and power lines is expected to be approximately $100 million, he said.

WATCH | Winnipeggers dig out of massive snowstorm in 2019:

Winnipeg weathers wild autumn snowstorm

3 years ago
Duration 1:48
Residents reeling after wet dump of snow takes down power lines, snaps trees like twigs.

The Crown corporation is working on fine-tuning its emergency response in the event of other widespread outages, Owen said.

Manitoba Hydro also is working on ensuring staff who travel to rural and remote locations have satellite phones, and is replacing two-wheel-drive vehicles with four-wheel-drive ones.

As for Hazzard, he's hoping this year is easier on him.

"People have said I've held up pretty well, but it's been a nightmare for me."


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