Nfld. & Labrador

'Tragedy far more likely' unless snowclearing improves, Tories claim

The day after a record snowfall on the Avalon Peninsula, the PCs renew a call for the government to increase snowclearing efforts.

26 centimetres of snow fell Jan. 2, breaking 26-year-old record

The Progressive Conservatives sounded a dire warning Tuesday that a tragedy on Newfoundland and Labrador's highways is "far more likely" unless the provincial government increases snowclearing. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

The day after a record snowfall on the Avalon Peninsula, the Progressive Conservative Opposition has renewed its call for the Newfoundland and Labrador government to improve snowclearing efforts.

"The [Dwight] Ball Liberals' choice to slash highway snowclearing services is making driving treacherous, jeopardizing lives and making an avoidable tragedy far more likely," said Barry Petten, the Transportation and Works critic for the PCs. 

The 26 centimetres of snow that fell at the St. John's airport Monday was a Jan. 2 record, busting the 1981 record of 21.6 centimetres.

"People are posting photos of highways in abysmal conditions with not a plow in sight. It's shocking to see major highways left in such a state when drivers are using them," Petten said in a statement.

Last week, an ambulance operator said the lack of snowclearing made it difficult to transport a patient from Whitbourne to the Janeway children's hospital in St. John's on Christmas Day.

"I know that we're under [financial] restraint but I think when it's actually snowing out and you got windy, stormy conditions I think those trucks should be on 24-7," Wade Smith, owner of Smith's Paramedic Services, told CBC.

Still 24/7 service, says government

On Tuesday, cabinet minister Eddie Joyce, who was acting as transportation minister, repeated the government's stance that 24/7 snowclearing service was still available in all the main areas.

"What has happened now is that people will be called in when there is snow," he said.

Joyce says regular call-ins take up to 30 minutes, and supervisors are on site around the clock to watch forecasts.

"Before, if there was no snow for three or four days, they would still be on the sites and at the depots."

Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce says roads in Newfoundland and Labrador are being cleared just as well as they were before the provincial budget. (CBC)

Joyce says every available truck and sander in the region was on the road Monday.

"​We feel confident that the roads are being cleared as they were prior to the budget. There has been no change," he claimed.

"The same amount of equipment is there. The same amount of employees is there."

3 hours for 150-kilometre drive

Susan Khaladkar of Sunnyside told the St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday that it took three hours to travel what is normally a 150-kilometre drive from the town, on the northwestern edge of the Avalon Peninsula, to St. John's on Jan. 2, including a detour through Holyrood due to a sinkhole on the highway.

"It wasn't a good drive, because there was really not much snowclearing [that] had taken place. There might have been a pass through, but it was pretty greasy," she said.

From Whitbourne to St. John's, the highway was reduced to a single lane, she said.

If you were in an emergency vehicle, I don't know how you'd get through.- Susan Khaladkar

Khaladkar said she chalked up the condition to the statutory holiday, but said the highway was still dangerous. While her trip wasn't an emergency, she said, she was visiting her brother in the hospital.

"If you were in an emergency vehicle, I don't know how you'd get through," she said.

"Well, you'd have to get through with a snowplow in front of you, I guess."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show