Churchill declares state of local emergency after three days of blizzard

The Town of Churchill is getting ready to tackle the aftermath of a three-day blizzard that blanketed the community in snow and shut down some essential services.

Winter storm snowed hospital door shut, immobilized police and fire crews

Churchill's deputy mayor Shane Hutchins guessed cleanup would take another 20 days or so. (Submitted)

The Town of Churchill is getting ready to tackle the aftermath of a three-day blizzard that blanketed the community in snow and shut down some essential services.

The northern Manitoba town declared a state of local emergency on Friday evening, emerging on the other side of the winter storm that included 60 centimetres of snow and wind gusts of up to 120 km/h.

"It is evident there is significant cleanup work to be done that will impact the town's existing resources to complete this work and bring the community back to a state of normalcy," the town wrote in a release shared on Facebook.

The emergency declaration will allow the town to obtain additional resources and personnel for the cleanup effort, and gives it use of personal property "considered necessary to mitigate the effects of the emergency."

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said he can't remember such a significant dump of snow in town in his lifetime. He said he's proud of how his community came together, from city staff working long hours to volunteer firefighters and local rangers helping to shovel residents out.

"It's been challenging. The community has responded very well," Spence said. "What a hearty community — this community has a lot of heart."

Churchill in March snowstorm

7 years ago
Duration 0:10
Featured VideoImages from around Churchill, Man., during a blizzard on March 9, 2017. (Video credit: Keith McDougall, KProductions)

Cleanup could take 20 days

On Sunday, deputy mayor Shane Hutchins estimated cleanup would take another 20 days or so, and said the town hasn't ruled out asking the province for additional resources.

Hutchins said almost every road is passable now, although many are only open to one lane of traffic, and several businesses along the town's main drag Kelsey Boulevard are still socked in with snow.

​The roof of the fire hall was also damaged in the storm, Spence added.

The town is asking residents to be patient as it tackles the white stuff, he said.

Before cleanup began, Hutchins said downtown Churchill was transformed into an "alien planet."

'Unprecedented amount of snow'

"In areas there's drifts of 25 to 30 feet that we had to cut holes into. Huge, huge stretches of snow eight and nine feet deep along major roads," he said.

"It wasn't a straight walk through, it was ups and downs, climbing up huge drifts and sliding down on the other side just to get from Point A to Point B, at that time frame in terms of the blizzard."

Hutchins said, as far as he knows, all residents have dug out themselves out of their homes by now. (Submitted)

Hutchins said it was an "unprecedented" amount of snow.

"I've lived here 50 years. I've lived here all my life, and I can't recall a time where we've had this much snow combined this much wind combined with the duration we've had it for," he said.

"It really is a first, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I mean, we've had blizzards that, you know, matched snowfall levels or matched wind velocity before. But never in the combination of the three. I've never seen anything like it."

With files from Alana Cole