Nfld. & Labrador

Avalanche in St. John's neighbourhood prompts partial evacuation

A few dozen homes in the Battery area of St. John's were evacuated Friday evening after an avalanche hit the community amid a powerful blizzard, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said in a tweet.

No one injured, one home damaged, mayor says

Firefighters evacuated a few dozen homes in the Battery neighbourhood of St. John's, officials said, after an avalanche struck on Friday evening. (Francesca Swann/CBC)

A few dozen homes in the Battery area of St. John's were evacuated Friday evening after an avalanche hit the community amid a powerful blizzard, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said in a tweet.

Residents said firefighters began the evacuation around 8 p.m. NT and the St. John's Regional Fire Department said it will provide an update when more information is available.

Mayor Danny Breen told CBC's Mainstreet only one house was damaged by the avalanche and no one was injured.

He said the police and fire department were assessing the area to see if there were any further risks.

Residents Chris Brookes and Christina Smith told CBC's Mainstreet they own two homes in the Battery. The one they rent out to a tenant was hit by the avalanche.

"She was very lucky and managed to get out of the way. We're all a bit shaken here," Smith said.

The colourful Battery area is shown in an undated photo. (Submitted by Neville Webb)

"Our houses are up in behind, underneath the cliffs, there's a cleft in the hill just behind … Basically what happened is the snow must have built up there."

Smith said she was out shovelling the deck not long before the avalanche, but came in because of the wind.

"[The wind] was coming from the east and then it veered round, right into my face, and I thought, 'There's no use keeping this up,'" she said.

About 45 minutes later, "There was an almighty thump."

They got a call from their tenant that the house was full of snow and they dashed over.

"There was a huge amount of snow that came crashing in the kitchen window and filled up the whole kitchen and the living room," Brookes said. 

"Everybody is OK," he said, even the five chickens that live in a coop.

Smith said they shoveled tons of snow out of the living room and kitchen.

She praised the fire department, who also helped shovel when they arrived.

"They had to walk down probably about half a mile up to their waist in snow to get to the Battery in the first place, then they had to shovel their way up to the house," Smith said.

Neighbour Rick Page went out to help, but was promptly told by first responders to return home.

"When an avalanche falls on your neighbour's house, you kind of want to go out and see if there's anything you can do," he said.

Page said firefighters were worried more snow might come down.

He said they were told to be prepared to be evacuated, but firefighters haven't returned to relocate them.

"I'm just wondering if they're going to be able to do it, the amount of snow that's down here," Page said.

At 6 p.m. NT on Friday, St. John's temporarily suspended snow-clearing operations citing bad visibility. The city said snowplow operators remain on standby at various locations, including hospitals, fire departments and the Battery.

The living room and kitchen in this home were filled with snow on Friday night. No one was injured in the avalanche, the mayor said. (Francesca Swann/CBC)

With files from Mike Moore and CBC's Mainstreet

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