Chatham-Kent clears roads, lifts state of emergency following heavy snow storm

Chatham-Kent lifted a state of emergency on Monday at 2 p.m. ET following a blizzard snowfall event that saw hundreds of cars stranded in the small southwestern, Ontario municipality, and people stuck and sleeping inside of Walmart. 

Emergency declared Saturday, Dec. 24, lifted Monday Dec. 26 at 2 p.m.

A vehicle is parked in a parking lot in heavy snow
Chatham-Kent was pummeled by a blizzard that saw hundreds of vehicles stranded Dec. 24, leading the southwestern Ontario municipality to declare a state of emergency. It was lifted on Monday. This photo was taken by someone who had to spend the night in the local Walmart. (Heather Nickoli)

Chatham-Kent lifted a state of emergency on Monday at 2 p.m. ET following a blizzard snowfall event that saw hundreds of cars stranded in the small southwestern, Ontario municipality, and people stuck and sleeping inside of Walmart

Chatham-Kent mayor Darrin Canniff issued the state of emergency on Saturday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. 

At the time, cars were banned from parking on municipal streets — a ban which remains in effect until 2 p.m. Dec. 27 so that crews can continue clearing snow off the streets. 

"We are asking motorists to make every effort to move their vehicles off the streets so that the plows can clear the roads more effectively," said Ryan Brown, director of public works, in a statement Monday. 

"We recognize that this is an inconvenience, but there are no other options. Emergency vehicles, citizens, and local businesses all depend on these streets being cleared as quickly as possible. The order will be rescinded as soon as road conditions warrant it to limit the inconvenience to residents."

The municipality said in a Saturday morning press release that visibility had improved, but road conditions were still an issue. The Friday snow storm was so intense that it caused multiple vehicle crashes and people abandoning vehicles on roads, the municipality said.

The closures included Highway 401 from Tilbury to London, which has been closed since Friday because of a multi-vehicle crash.

In a press statement on Monday, the municipality praised the efforts of first responders including police, paramedics, fire, local public works, and other municipal employees for their efforts in "extraordinary situations by clearing roads, providing medical aid, establishing emergency shelters, and co-ordinating rescues of stranded motorists and others."

"Mayor Canniff also praised members of local service groups, schools, churches, and individuals who stepped up to provide food and accommodations to stranded holiday travelers," it said in the release. 

The municipality says most rural roads and major arterial routes have been cleared, but that it will take one or two days to clear residential roads.

Where's my car?

Chatham-Kent police are asking anyone who left their abandoned vehicles in the municipality to call the following local towing agencies to find where their vehicle has been moved to: 

  • Chatham Towing at 519-436-1000.
  • Dave Cragg Towing at 519-351-1157.
  • Wrights Towing at 519-678-3327.

Lakeshore has also ended its significant weather event declaration. 

"With the worst of the winter weather event behind us, we're back to our regular snow clearing and salting operations," said Krystal Kalbol, Lakeshore's corporate leader – operations. "We appreciate everyone who did what they could to keep roads clear, as well as our dedicated team members who worked tirelessly throughout the weather event."

Via rail operations normal Windsor—Toronto

All Via Rail operations are running normally between Windsor and Toronto as of Tuesday, Dec. 27, according to a statement from the company to CBC News. 

"Where we are experiencing reduced service is between Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa due to the aftermath of a CN train derailment," a spokesperson said in the statement. 

Via Rail trains going from Toronto to Ottawa as well as Ottawa to Montreal will return to service Tuesday following the closure of a stretch of track on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as much of Canada was dealing with a major storm.

The rail company said trips between Toronto and Montreal would run on a "modified schedule," which will be available on its website and "communicated to impacted customers as soon as possible."

WATCH | people spend the night at Walmart Saturday due to blizzard in Chatham-Kent: 

Ontario blizzard forces shoppers to spend the night in Walmart

3 months ago
Duration 2:00
Dozens of people had to spend the night at a Walmart in Chatham, Ont., due the massive holiday weekend winter storm.

People stranded by storm crashed at Walmarts in Ontario

Dozens of people spent the night in a Walmart store in Chatham-Kent on Friday due to the closed roads around them. At least one person who was stranded says the staff made it as comfortable as possible.

A woman lies on an air mattress with chips on the shelves behind her.
Heather Nickoli settles down for the night in the aisle of a Walmart. (Heather Nickoli)

Store staff blew up air mattresses for the shoppers and served hot meals from the deli, says Heather Nickoli, who was en route from Ohio to Peterborough, Ont., with her boyfriend. Store workers also played music and gave people games to play.

A total of 50 stranded customers and 48 staff spent the night.

With files from Samantha Craggs

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