Nfld. & Labrador

From snow forts to beat poems, here's how Newfoundlanders weathered the storm

Sustained wind and snow made digging out impossible. But people still found ways to make the best of it.

Whether holing up or digging out, life looks very different on the other side of record-breaking storm

Swaths of the province are buried alive after a monster storm pummeled the island Friday. (Ashley Fitzpatrick/Twitter)

A dwindling storm that's trapped tens of thousands inside their homes has ground normal life to a halt for much of Newfoundland.

As winds and snow started to die down, people from Gambo to Trepassey are wincing as they open their doors to snow drifts that at times completely eclipse the outside world.

The City of St. John's has plows on the roads, but only to keep emergency routes clear as a state of emergency remains in effect.

Dan Bobbett, mayor of Paradise, tweeted a warning to residents early Saturday morning: clearing over 75 centimetres of snow off town property will take time.

Advice from all sides? Hole up, hunker down and wait, since there's nowhere to go anyway.

Some Avalon residents have found uses for the nine- to 10-foot drifts blocking their doors, leaving them wondering how to tunnel out — and then, of course, how to stomp and flail their way through the drifts to get enough leverage to move the snow around.

Others have given up entirely.

On Saturday, CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup opened the national phone lines to hear how Canadians across the country are coping with winter weather. Still snowed in, many callers from Newfoundland shared their stories.

Sonja Mills of Port Rexton told host Duncan McCue that she and her wife, Alicia, are passing the time with marathon games of cribbage. 

"[We are] really just kind of hanging in there, hoping the power doesn't go out [and] getting prepared for it," Mills said.

But the couple had a more pressing concern on their minds. As owners of Port Rexton Brewing Company, they strapped on skis Saturday afternoon and braved the weather to check on their beer.

Alongside dog Koda, Sonja Mills and her wife Alicia braved the snow drifts to check on their brewery. (Submitted by Sonja Mills)

"With the power on ... things are still happening in the brewing tanks, so we're going to go keep an eye on things," she told McCue.

For Bob Cole, the legendary broadcaster who retired last year after a half-century of work for Hockey Night in Canada, it was a chance to give some old friends an update on what's happening in his home province.

"It took a state of emergency, by the way, to get me on Hockey Night again," Cole told Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean on Saturday night before the beginning of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Chicago Blackhawks game.

Watch as Bob Cole discusses the blizzard on Hockey Night in Canada:

Retired broadcaster Bob Cole returned to Hockey Night in Canada to provide an update on the blizzard that enveloped his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 1:46

Others took advantage of the snowdrifts for a little thrill seeking.

When he looked at the snow-covered streets of St. John's, free of moving vehicles, Matt Wells saw an opportunity.

"I walked out the front door, strapped on the snowboard and then I proceeded on down Prescott, over Duckworth and on down to Water Street," Wells told McCue.

"It was surprising, actually, because there was so much snow, it was actually difficult to get any speed up. It was difficult to go faster or pick up any speed because the snow was so deep," he said of his ride.

Video of Wells' slide through the streets was shared widely on Facebook on Saturday.

Wells is originally from the west coast of New Zealand and attended university in Halifax, but only moved to St. John's a few months ago. 

"It was probably ill-advised for me to go do it myself. But definitely worth it in the end," he says of his ride.

There were those who wouldn't let the blizzard get in the way of a fun Saturday night.

And still more have found creative ways to spend this stretch of forced confinement.

Some, like Adam Meyer, turned to the ephemeral.

Meyer called in CBC's radio special to read something he'd written while watching the blizzard rage:

I moved to St. John's just in time for the greatest winter storm in a generation.

Now I stand half-buried in a cold Sahara watching streetlights flicker meekly like 

tea candles on the verge of being snuffed by the greatest winter storm in a generation. 

The house rocks and surges like a wooden ship so that when I close my eyes I see icy cliffs, too close, disappear

under the frigid surf thrown around by the greatest winter storm in a generation. 

When the power finally fails the world goes not black, but purple, and from the otherworldly shade 

it's obvious St. John's is a sibling of Pluto; an icy frontier at the edge of system space, in orbit but 

made distinct by the distance and cold as a dwarf-planet by the greatest winter storm in a generation. 

The air around the city feels sick as if decades of jet fuel and international trade routes 

have concocted a nasty bug to be slowly purged with each retching gust that spews 

a break-locking, street-clogging mess culminating in the greatest winter storm in a generation. 

I moved to St. John's in time to witness its cold burial but 

tomorrow I will wake and find life in the morning after the greatest storm in a generation. 

When most people woke up they began with a game of: where's my car? Followed by: who's taller? Me or the snowbank.

Clearing will eventually happen, as it did in 2001 and other years when Mother Nature did her worst.

And while a state of emergency has kept most folks inside, people who managed to get to work on Friday had to stay put. That includes essential service workers.

With files from Cross Country Checkup