As It Happens

For 1st time in 40 years, extreme snowstorm keeps St. John's cabbie off the road

In his 40 years of driving a cab in St. John's, N.L. Joe White never let extreme weather stand in his way — until Friday.

Joe White's advice for other folks stranded by the storm: 'Stay home, make some babies'

Joe White didn't go to work today, after a state of emergency was declared in St. John's, N.L. (Submitted by Joe White)

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In his 40 years of driving a cab in Newfoundland, Jiffy Cabs driver Joe White never let extreme weather stand in his way — until Friday.

The City of St. John's and surrounding municipalities declared a state of emergency Friday as the province was hit with snow and high winds.

Eastern Newfoundland is expected to receive more than 75 centimetres of snow and winds are expected to gust to as high as 150 km/h. Residents have been told to stay home, and that includes taxi drivers. 

Taxi company Jiffy Cabs said this the first time in the business's history that it ever pulled its entire fleet off the road. From his home in St. John's, White told As It Happens host Carol Off his advice for how people should weather the storm.  

So you've been out snowblowing. What's the point, given the fact that it just keeps coming down? 

I work seven days a week and I get really put out when I can't get out and go to work. And if I leave that until tomorrow morning … it'll be probably up to my shoulders. 

We've seen the videos, we're seeing the pictures. … You just can't fathom what's happening right now on your part on the Avalon Peninsula. Just describe what it's like outside your door?

When that snow hits your face, it's like someone has a sand blaster. You can't even look at it. You have to be very careful when you're snowblowing, especially near the street, because even though it's a state of emergency, there's still some fools out there in pickup trucks trying to see what their trucks can do. 

The view from White's front porch. (Submitted by Joe White)

When you get a northeast wind like that … that must be just brutal.

A northeast wind in St. John's will cut you right to the bone. You might get a northeast wind up in Toronto and other places and I've heard meteorologists say, "Nah, it's the same." It's not the same.

The meteorologists gotta come down here and stand up in it and then they'll understand.

Three times today, I got my snow gear in the dryer again. Because the humidity that's in this stuff just soaks you right to the bone.

I mean, you can go up in Toronto and blow snow and stuff like that, and it's cold. But it's not a damp cold. We get a damp cold down here.

I lived in Ontario for a couple of years and the windchill up there of –30 C is nothing. But a wind chill down here of –20 C or –30 C — I mean, it's not fit. 

When was the last time you didn't go out in your cab because of the weather? 

Never. I've been into the taxi industry since 1979. I've gone through more cars than most people go through shoes and the weather has never ever prevented me from going to work. 

So what makes you so convinced that you're going to get out to work tomorrow? 

I'm just persistent. I'm going to work tomorrow morning. 

High winds and blowing snow made walking difficult in St. John's Friday. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

What we're hearing from the police and the authorities are saying, "Just do not go out there today." But are people doing that anyway? You said you saw some pickup trucks. People are actually out on the road?

I saw one pickup truck, that was earlier … a few hours ago. I haven't seen one since. 

I live out in the west end and a lot of people around here have snowmobiles. I haven't even heard one.

So I think the teenagers got the message so stay home. If you don't need to be out, stay home. Stay home, make some babies, and then you'll be able to remember what happened. 

But I'm going to work tomorrow morning. You needn't worry about that. And my customers, they know that I'll be out working tomorrow morning. I told them already. I'll be out. 

Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length 


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