Heavy snowfall shuts city
Sat, December 9, 2006
Londoners will spend days shovelling and plowing huge piles of the white stuff.
London will be digging out today after one of the biggest snowstorms in its history crippled traffic, shut down businesses and left thousands stuck at home yesterday.
Buses are expected back on the roads today, but it could take until tomorrow morning for plows to clear all city streets, following the jaw- dropping blast that blanketed London with 47 centimetres of snow -- even more in some areas -- in 17 hours and caught many people off guard.
"We haven't seen a snowstorm like this since 1978," said Jeff Fielding, London's chief administrative officer.
A vast range of businesses and public services were smothered by the snow, the fallout measured in closings that cascaded through the day:
- All elementary and high schools in London and the region were closed. For city kids, it was the first snow day off school in more than 25 years and the first time the entire Thames Valley district school board -- one of Ontario's largest -- and the London District Catholic school board had shut down in more than a decade.
- The University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College also closed, cancelling exams.
- City bus service was completely cancelled for the first time since 1978. The storm began Thursday night and one bus, slated to finish its run at 1 a.m. yesterday, made it back to the garage seven hours later. With only eight of its 33 bus routes fully cleared yesterday afternoon, the London Transit Commission suspended service for the first time since '78.
- Some vehicles stuck in snow were simply abandoned in the middle of roads around the city, making an already difficult drive worse, police said.
- Mail delivery was halted in what Canada Post said may be a first for the city. "It's pretty obvious, if you're residing in the city of London, how tough it is to get around," spokesperson Tom Creech said.
The OPP, which patrols regional roads, took the unusual step of asking drivers to stay home early yesterday.
By the time the snowfall stopped, officers had responded to a whopping 226 calls, Sgt. Dave Rektor said, including at least two that left drivers in critical condition.
Rektor added drivers going too fast contributed to several crashes.
"It's unbelievable that people can't get their heads around the fact that we live in Ontario -- and it snows."
Robin Woollard, 67, who was hurt in a huge Highway 401 pileup near Woodstock on Thursday, remained in critical condition yesterday, OPP Const. Dennis Harwood said. He was flown to McMaster hospital in Hamilton.
An Aylmer man, 49, was flown to a London hospital yesterday after a collision between a van and a tractor trailer east of St. Thomas. The trucker, a 25-year-old from Tillsonburg, wasn't hurt.
In London, there were only minor fender-benders despite the brutal driving conditions.
"The road conditions were as bad as they've been in years," said London police Const. Amanda Pfeffer.
There were reports of snow as deep as 66 centimetres in some neighbourhoods.
The storm started Thursday and raged into yesterday. London hadn't seen anything like it since Dec. 7, 1977, when a record 57 centimetres fell in one dump.
The storm was tame compared to the worst ones of the 1970s that paralysed London and surrounding areas, including days-long storms in 1971 that killed three people and in 1978 that killed eight.
This time, Londoners are getting relief quickly -- all that snow could turn into rivers of slush by tomorrow, with temperatures forecast to climb to 7 C and remain above freezing for a couple days.
I will have some pics soon!
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