Blizzard in Coral Harbour prompts renewed call for snow fences in the hamlet

A three-day blizzard has Coral Harbour's mayor saying snow fences are necessary to keep neighbourhoods open for emergency services, but the Minister for Community and Government Services isn't sure they'll be effective in keeping snow off the ground.

Houses and cars were covered in snow drifts after 119 km/h winds blasted the community

Before their house was dug out Ben Ell said he heard footsteps across his roof as someone didn't realize there was a house under the snow drift. (Ro Tanuyak)

A three-day blizzard in Coral Harbour last week provoked renewed calls for snow fences in the community.

Mayor of Coral Harbour Ronnie Ningeongan said the subdivision near the hamlet arena is especially in need.

After winds gusted up to 119 km/h, residents helped shovel paths to their neighbours' doors as the wind had blown snow up the sides of houses and buried numerous vehicles.

Before his house was dug out, Ben Ell said he heard footsteps across his roof as someone didn't realize there was a house under the snow drift. 

When Rachel Emiktowt dug out her vehicle from under around five meters of snow after the storm, she found the windshield cracked.  
Rachel Emiktowt says her vehicle was buried under around 5 meters of snow and when it was dug out it wouldn't start and the windshield was cracked. (Rachel Emiktowt)

"It's happened a number of times, but more importantly this last blizzard that we had was quite extensive, and I hope that our government can listen to our needs," Ningeongan said.

On March 8, MLA Steve Mapsalak, whose constituency includes Coral Harbour, broached the subject in the Nunavut legislature, asking if snow fences could be installed this winter. 
William Tagoona stands near a snow fence in Baker Lake. (William Tagoona)

"Snow fences are very important and I know that they work. For those of us who live in Naujaat, when a snow fence was put up, it really made a lot less snow land on the ground," he said.

Ningeongan says one of the reasons he's keen on getting snow fences set up is so emergency services are always able to enter a neighbourhood. 

While he said there was no emergency during this blizzard, some residents of Coral Harbour were without power for three days.
Several residents needed help digging out of their houses after 51 hours of blizzard conditions. (Ro Tanuyak)

Joe Savikataaq, the Minister responsible for Community and Government Services, was less certain that snow fences would provide a fix for those problems.

"Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. It depends on the location of where they're put. If there is a request from a community, then we would go on a case-by-case basis," he said in response to questions in the legislature.   

He said that the department does not have a set policy on snow fencing because they've been tried in several communities with mixed results.

"They are costly to put up, but in some places they are very effective."

At Mapsalak's request, Savikataaq is looking into whether the hamlet of Coral Harbour has put in a request for a snow fence.

with files from Mike Salomonie


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