Iqaluit mayor: 'I've never seen winds like that ever'

The mayor of Iqaluit says a storm that has damaged roofs, buried cars in snow and sent two people to hospital for carbon monoxide exposure was the worst he has seen in almost four decades on Baffin Island.

Nunavut's capital in sync with rest of Canada in terms of winter weather-related woes

The mayor of Iqaluit says a storm that has damaged roofs, buried cars in snow and sent two people to hospital for carbon monoxide exposure was the worst he has seen in almost four decades on Baffin Island.

"I'm coming up on 39 years in Iqaluit," said John Graham on Wednesday morning, "and I've never seen winds like that ever."

​Small buildings were tossed about, construction debris was flying and windows were broken as wind gusts reached 150.1 km/h in the Nunavut capital.

With sustained winds at 111 km/h, CBC meteorologist Christy Climenhaga said the storm was close to hurricane strength, something that came as much of the rest of Canada was dealing with its own weather-related problems.

Power outages left some people in the dark for up to 17 hours in Iqaluit.

Graham says a large piece of his roof came off and wrapped itself around an electrical pole.

“I thought the whole thing was gonna go, to be honest with you,” Graham says. “You’re kind of helpless and lots of people in this city last night were in that situation.”

The fire department got one call of a house filled with carbon monoxide as people tried to keep warm. Two people were taken to hospital but are OK.

Graham says communication was a challenge given the power problems.

A car buried in a snowdrift. Winds were still raging when people in Iqaluit woke up Wednesday morning, expecting to find damage. (Kenny Bell)
“Thank goodness for Twitter. I'm gonna learn how to use that, because for most of the evening, after the cellphone actually died, that was the only information that I was able to receive,” he says.

Power outages could mean many people have frozen pipes and other damage to homes.

“Goodness knows what the expense really is when it’s all tabulated at the end of the day,” Graham says.

Terror in the howling wind

For many in the capital, the storm was a terrifying experience.

“I thought the windows and patio doors were going to cave in,” says the CBC’s Patricia Bell, who felt her way from her car to her front door with a baby in tow.

Several people trying to get home Tuesday found they were standing still, or being blown in the wrong direction by the wind. Good Samaritans offered rides, but some vehicles also wound up in the ditch.

Many homes and apartment buildings in the city are built on stilts — long metal pilings drilled deep into the permafrost. People in those homes felt shaking throughout the night, with one resident, whose home overlooks Frobisher Bay, describing the experience of his living room sofa turning into an amusement park ride.

“Sitting on my couch right now is highly reminiscent of those coin-op kiddie rides you find in a mall… except this is free… it's not stopping… and there is no button to make laser noises,” wrote Tony Rose on Facebook. “Hang tight Iqalummiut, this is part of why we live here!

On Twitter, another Iqaluit resident reported that his brother’s living room window shattered. Fortunately, nobody was near it at the time.

“Truck’s covered in snow, garage is almost covered to the top! Thought the roofing and siding was going to blow away!” wrote Johnny Issaluk on Facebook.

Some tweeting died down during the night as cellphone service was knocked out. It's now returned, but is still intermittent. 

Winds continue Wednesday morning

Strong winds continued this morning as the tail end of the violent storm passed over the city. The temperature is expected to drop to -17 C this afternoon, -27 C with the windchill.

Schools, offices and most businesses are closed in the city. City staff said the roads are open, but they encouragied people to stay home this morning until the winds died down.

The CBC is broadcasting today on 1230 AM, but the FM station has been knocked out.

The station closed Tuesday afternoon to wait out the storm. It was the first time CBC Iqaluit has closed due to weather in recent memory.

Fortunately, people in the community of about 7000 are looking after each other.

One school was opened as a warming centre until power was restored in the satellite community of Apex.

After closing up the school this morning, school principal Mat Knickelbein made a list of people to check on during the day, inviting others online to call and add names.


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