Snowblowers sales surge as Maritimers dig themselves out of back-to-back storms

Maritimers dig themselves out of winter storms

HALIFAX — Maritimers are struggling to dig themselves out of back-to-back snow dumps that have walloped the East Coast.

A major storm clobbered Atlantic Canada last week, burying vast swaths of the region in more than half a metre of snow by Monday. There was barely a reprieve before a second system went through the region.

While the worst of the blustery weather appears to have passed, residents and officials alike are still puzzling over how to get rid of the mountains of snow lining streets and roads in many communities.

“I dig and dig and dig, and somehow, there’s more,” said Gordon Gilbert of Sydney in Cape Breton. “I don’t remember what my lawn ornaments look like.”

Nova Scotia’s online plow tracker showed more than 35 snow-clearing vehicles still working on the province’s roads Sunday. In Halifax, cars sloshed through streets flanked by towering snowbanks as around 200 crew work “around-the-clock” to clear the suffocating snowfall, according to a city spokesperson.

Tiffany Chase said the city is using all available resources to deal with the storm’s aftermath, but said it could be another week until all residential walkways are accessible.

Many sidewalks in the city have been clogged by a turf war between residents shoving snow off their driveways and snowblowers shaving snowbanks away from the roads, leaving a layer of sullied sleet for pedestrians to trudge through in between.

“Many of us know the feeling of despair when, after spending hours cleaning your driveway, it snows… again,” Nova Scotia RCMP said in a statement. “Storms like the ones we are having this month make many of us wonder where we’re going to put all of that snow.” 

Cpl. Jennifer Clarke made a plea to citizens to pile the snow in their own yards, reminding Nova Scotians to help their neighbours “survive this winter” and that the season will eventually end.

Terry Bernard, chair of public works in Charlottetown, said the city’s cleanup is almost over as around 40 trucks were working this weekend to haul snow out of the downtown area.

Management at Home Depot stores in Fredericton and Saint John, N.B., say they’ve seen a spike in snowblower sales and a Halifax location had to order extra shipment to keep up with demand. Several people have posted wanted ads to Kijiji looking to buy secondhand units or spare parts.

“When you’re shovelling that much snow, you can get injuries,” said Duane Moss, a snowblower technician at Scope Industrial near St. John’s, N.L. “I’d rather pay $1,500 for a machine than $1,500 in therapy for my back.”

Moss said he’s received about 30 calls a day asking about repairs since the first storm hit last Monday, many of them from people who have broken their machines by sucking debris buried in their yards.

He said snowblowers are a must-have tool to get through winter on the East Coast and urged people to equip themselves before the next blizzard — not after.

Susan Keffer of Fredericton said it took six hours to clear her driveway after the winter double-whammy, even with a snowblower. The city’s downtown streets are still snow-packed, said Keffer, with banks so high that “you take your life in your own hands coming out of an intersection.”

New Brunswick is still reeling from last month’s devastating ice storm that caused widespread power outages across the province. Keffer said her mother hasn’t seen such a harsh winter in her 95 years living in the province, so when the latest blows came around, people already knew the drill.

“We live in Canada. It is February,” she said. “We’re not expecting mosquitoes. We get snow.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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