Nfld. & Labrador

Some folks working non-stop through Newfoundland's blizzard aftermath

Nurses, firefighters, police, phone operators and others have been staying put during the state of emergency.

Nurses, firefighters, police, phone operators have been staying put during state of emergency

Meaghan McCaw posted on the Facebook group NL Snowstorm 2020 Information Centre Sunday a photo of her daughter saying goodbye to her dad, who is helping out with the Army Reserves. (Meaghan McCaw/Facebook)

Essential workers are pulling long shifts and are braving the blizzard aftermath as eastern Newfoundland continues to dig out Sunday.

Provincial and municipal snowplow operators haven't had much of a break as officials continue to urge the public to stay off roads and highways during the state of emergency.

Officials say driving on the roads is hindering snowplow operators from properly clearing the streets.

At Telelink on Pippy Place in St. John's, the response centre is juggling calls.

"They're exhausted, but pushing through," co-CEO Cindy Roma said of the employees at the response centre.

"The calls can be challenging. Many concerned people are calling with all sorts of issues, concerns and emergencies, and sometimes we don't have all the answers."

Rona said the same core group has been working non-stop since Friday morning "to make sure they are maintaining the essential services we provide to our customers and their customers."

A group of core staff have been working non-stop since Friday morning answering phones for Telelink. (Submitted by Telelink)

Roma said employees have been dealing with calls for municipalities, government agencies and oil delivery companies. Their emergency and safety team monitor offshore installations and medevac.

"Fortunately, that group has been very quiet."

Employees have been using the nearby Ramada Hotel for hotel rooms and meals, which, Roma said, is better than previous big storms.

"During several ice storms in the '80s and '90s we were operational but with propane heaters being used to heat cans of soup," she said.

Snowshoeing to work

Unions representing groups like nurses and firefighters have been posting online about the creative ways people have been getting to work, including by snowshoeing and hitchhiking.

They're also given a shout out to workers who, in some cases, have clocked in more than 60 hours of work.

John Haggie, the province's health minister, said Eastern Health has been able to switch workers, but that there have been some delays at Pleasantview Towers.

He added there are some challenges giving a break to some home support and complex-care workers.

"I think it's worth every opportunity to [say] thank you because this is amazing," Haggie said.

He also gave a thanks to non-medical staff like caterers, janitors and other employees who are key to keeping hospitals running.

Debbie Forward, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador, says these nurses at the Janeway Children's Hospital put in 60 hours of work as of Sunday morning. (Debbie Forward/Twitter)
IAFF Local 1075 St. John's Firefighters posted this photo of firefighters facing the blizzard. (Twitter/@IAFFLocal1075)

Then there are industries and jobs that some may forget during storms of this magnitude, like Memorial University's campus enforcement.

Meanwhile, gas stations and pharmacies have been given the go-ahead to open in order for emergency vehicles to gas up and for people to fill prescriptions.

While St. John's remains under a state of emergency, people are going to local gas stations to stock up on more than just fuel.

The parking lot of Needs Convenience in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, which also houses a liquor outlet, was blocked with vehicles earlier Sunday.

Irving stores on Torbay Road and Frecker Drive have had a long line of people waiting outside the door Sunday afternoon.

A line of people at Irving on Torbay Road Sunday afternoon. (Peter Gullage/CBC)

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