Manitoba

Winnipeg declares local state of emergency as collapsed trees threaten safety

Winnipeg Mayor Bowman has declared a local state of emergency as Manitoba post-snowstorm crisis slams much of southern Manitoba.

Mayor Bowman follows suit with Manitoba government, several First Nations amid post-snowstorm crisis

The aftermath of the tree canopy caving in around Winnipeg's Wildwood Park. (Lara Schroeder/CBC)

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has declared a local state of emergency in the wake of a wicked snowstorm that walloped the southern portion of the province into the October long weekend.

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday, Bowman announced a local state of emergency for Winnipeg in order to allow crews to respond to public safety issues resulting from downed trees in contact with hydro lines and expedite the post-storm clean up — which has already had a "significant" financial impact on the city, the mayor said during a press conference at City Hall.

"This is going to take some time, it's going to take a lot of resources, and we're all, as Winnipeggers, going to have to demonstrate a lot of patience," Bowman said.

The city estimated some 30,000 trees it owns have been damaged by the Manitoba storm.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency for the province early Sunday, and more than a dozen First Nations left in the cold and dark without power have begun evacuating the most vulnerable people from their homes in rural communities after declaring their own state of emergency on Saturday afternoon.

A local state of emergency for Winnipeg will give the city more power to access private property to deal with public trees, and private trees on public property, and to acquire additional resources to tackle what Bowman has deemed an "unprecedented weather event."

"We want to make sure that they have the clear authority in order to do their jobs," Bowman said.

Bowman said it may be months before downed trees are cleared from public spaces. He said the city will be asking the province for disaster financial assistance at the next scheduled executive policy committee meeting on Tuesday.

"Continue to check on your friends and family and neighbours."

Clean up continues

Jason Shaw, the city's assistant chief of emergency management, said it's still too soon to know if any kind of disaster funding will be available for homeowners with damaged houses. The City of Winnipeg has been in contact with several other cities to get forestry help to Winnipeg.

City officials are no longer recommending people stay home. They are asking residents to remain diligent when travelling around fallen trees and power lines.

The city estimates the storm has caused tens of millions of dollars in damage in Winnipeg alone so far.

Residents are responsible for cleaning up trees that have fallen on their private property. If trees are in contact with power lines, the city advises residents to call 911 and not touch them.

In the wake of destruction, many community members came together to support each other with shovels, chainsaws and genuine Manitoban friendliness.

Wolseley resident Ray Hignell said his neighbours combined their efforts to help their neighbour Linda McLaren clean up debris from her yard and clear a broken tree limb that had come down on her vehicle. He said they also picked up tree limbs that were blocking the road to open it up to commuters.

"It was a massive transformation," Hignell said about the turnaround near the intersection of Palmerston Street at Arlington Avenue.

"The street was impassable, and now it's completely useable."

Wolseley resident Linda McLaren said this tree fell over top of her car on Friday and it still hadn't been cleaned up by the City of Winnipeg on Saturday. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

"We just fixed the problem," Hignell said. "And it was no expense to the city."

"I think it's important that people help out their neighbours. I mean, I don't know why they wouldn't help out their neighbours," Hignell said, adding, "I try to be one of those people that do."

Like many others in the city, Hignell still has more work ahead clearing his own yard.

More than 1,519 hydro customers in Winnipeg were without power out of a total of more than 25,800 affected in the province as of 7:30 p.m., according to the province's online outage report.

WATCH: Winnipeg weathers autumn snowstorm

Residents reeling after wet dump of snow takes down power lines, snaps trees like twigs. 1:47

More storm stories from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Austin Grabish

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