BC Hydro crews work to restore power in Kitimat during the recent snow storm.

BC Hydro crews work to restore power in Kitimat during the recent snow storm.

Kitimat recovering after massive snowfall

Kitimat was hit suddenly with a massive snow fall over the Family Day weekend.

It was a trick.

After a January of rain, rain and more rain, Old Man Winter unleashed a ferocious snow storm the likes of which had not been seen here for many a year.

After a gorgeous sunny day Wednesday, February 4, heavy powder snow began falling overnight and continued to come down throughout the day February 5.

Even then it wasn’t anything we wouldn’t see in any normal winter storm.

But as darkness fell the full fury of the storm was unleashed and increased through Friday, February 6 as a fully fledged blizzard.

The first power outages started Thursday night and their number grew on Friday as the snow load brought down trees and power lines, especially on the Kitamaat Village Road as the village lost all power.

At 10:21 a.m. Friday the city’s public works operations manager Brian Krause, in a release, said, “Our employees are doing the best they can and we ask all Kitimatians to bear with us as the snow continues to fall.

By then the city’s recreation facilities had already closed.

They were to be followed by the City Centre Mall, other businesses and even the bus service.

At 7:40 p.m mayor Phil Germuth issued a statement the city was doing the best it could in the circumstances.

“Our employees have been working around the clock to get streets cleared but the extremely heavy snowfall, combined with power outage, has made these efforts challenging.”

As the blizzard roared on private contractors and Rio Tinto Alcan joined the city in its efforts to clear streets more quickly and the city said crews would be working through the night.

It also warned it would be towing vehicles abandoned on city streets to Nechako Centre – vehicles left on streets were creating havoc with efforts to clear roads.

By Friday night Kitimat’s Emergency Operations Centre had been set up to organise all the extra equipment and Kitimat Search and Rescue was on standby in case snowmobiles were needed to access snowed-in homes.

And then as quick as the blizzard hit it was over.

Both snow and wind ended in the early hours of Saturday and the morning brought glorious sunshine, which allowed crews to start catching up on the road clearing.

But it was not over for the residents of Kitimaat Village.

With the power at the village having been out since 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Haisla chief councillor Ellis Ross posted a notice on Facebook calling for an evacuation of the village and advising there was a three-hour window to do that.

“If you have the means to get to town…please be gone before 8 a.m. Anytime after 8 a.m. don’t even try. The crews will be working and there will be no traffic allowed.

Many of the evacuees were able to find accommodation with family or friends in town while those who couldn’t were accommodated at Riverlodge where community volunteers provided hot meals.

FOOTNOTE: Kitimat has the best snow clearing of any town of similar size anywhere in Canada.

And yet it was stretched beyond the limit. That is a mark of the severity of the storm.