Posted by Oliver Kileen on January 10, 2010 at 09:43:05:
In Reply to: re: emergency response to weather posted by Lignator on January 09, 2010 at 17:17:18:
a cara......i got an e.mail today from ireland telling me the army has been called in to help with snow clearing in the nation.....i was told the country has come to a halt.....well don't be alarmed ....canada is the snowiest country on earth....and as this report reads.....
Mayor Mel has no regrets about army SOS
Bill Doskoch, ctvtoronto.ca
You might think of it as the original Snowmaggedon.
January 1999 was a brutal weather period for Toronto, with a 40-centimetre dump of snow starting things off on the second and third days of the year.
Ten days later, another snow system promised to bring another 15 to 25 centimetres of snow, with more to come. Winds gusting to 40 kilometres per hour made the -10C temperatures feel like -40C.
And so Mel Lastman, then the city's mayor, made a decision on Jan. 13, 1999 that still causes smirks from Victoria to St. John's -- he called in the army.
"I remember as never seeing so much snow come down in my life at one time," he told ctvtoronto.ca.
"I remember going out with my driver and taking a look at the old city of Toronto and driving south of Queen (Street) ... and seeing narrow streets, and cars parked on both sides of the streets, and ruts in the centre -- and wondering how the hell an ambulance would ever get down there.
"And I remember looking out my window at City Hall and not seeing any cars or anything driving along Queen Street.
"I said to myself, 'Myself, what the hell am I going to do now?'" he said.
"I called the head of the army and said 'what have you got ... because this city could be in a lot of trouble'," Lastman said.
According to a 2004 Esprit de Corps magazine article, Lastman placed a telephone call to then-defence minister Art Eggleton, a former Toronto mayor. The military dispatched a reconnaissance team.
By midnight on Jan. 13, Lastman said the military called him to say it would be putting some forces in place at the old Downsview base: more than 400 soldiers, four Bison armoured personnel carriers and more than 30 pieces of snow removal equipment.
The soldiers and equipment left CFB Petawawa at 5 a.m. on Jan. 14, 1999 and arrived in Toronto to undertake Operation Preamble. Another 300 reservists in Toronto were called into action.
The Bisons were literally lifesavers, Lastman said. He credits them with saving at least 35 people over the emergency period. The Esprit de Corps article said the Bison ambulances carried out 20 missions over three days.
However, news reports at the time indicate there wasn't much for the soldiers to do initially because no emergency declaration was in place. By Jan. 15, a snow emergency was declared -- the same day the snow started to taper off. The emergency order would stand for three days. Most of the troops broke camp on Jan. 17 and returned to Petawawa. About 120 remained behind to help with snow removal.
The 'right thing'
The reaction in other parts of Canada was mainly glee at the "centre of the universe's" comeuppance -- especially the army thing.
"Yeah, I took a lot of ribbing over it, but I did the right thing," Lastman said. "I did something politicians are afraid to do -- be safe rather than sorry, and act before somebody dies."
Lastman said he saw the ribbing as good-natured but felt people didn't really understand what was happening in the city.
Over 15 days, almost an entire season's worth of snow had fallen -- up to 118 centimetres. A typical January in Toronto at that time would see about 35 cm for the month, with 124 cm for an entire winter.
It would be described as the snowiest two-week period for the city since 1871.
There were more than 5,000 kilometres of roads to clear. GO Transit trains were shut down for two days, and the TTC was barely functioning, with fistfights breaking out between passengers frustrated by delays.
In fairness to Lastman, New York Gov. George Pataki declared an emergency for several counties in upper New York state. He authorized 83 troops from the National Guard to help with snow removal in Buffalo. Detroit and Chicago were also left reeling by the massive winter weather system.
While people remember the army, don't forget the volunteers from Prince Edward Island who brought out snow removal equipment to help remove the massive piles of snow from roadways.
Other crews from London, Bracebridge, Montreal and Ottawa also helped out.
The snow emergency was declared over at 3 p.m. on Jan. 18, 1999, although the cleanup would continue until month's end.
The P.E.I. volunteers were here to the end. As a treat, Lastman prevailed upon then-Toronto Maple Leafs chair Steve Stavro to find 100 tickets for them to the Jan. 30 game against the Washington Capitals.
"Those guys loved the game," he said. During an intermission, the announcer told the crowd the P.E.I. volunteers were at the game, "and they've got biggest cheer I've heard anywhere," he said.
Lastman said the whole episode showed him that as a mayor, don't be afraid to overreact to a budding crisis -- "even if you make a fool of yourself.
"And by not explaining it, they (the media) made a fool out of me! But I'm not unhappy about it, and I've never been unhappy about it," he said. "Because I did the right thing, and if I do the right thing, I don't care.
"Would I do it again? You're darned right I would."
....the winter universally is bitter.....florida is in the grip of ice.....the citrus crop is in danger....and expect to pay more for your oranges and grapefruits......
...get out the long johns...and ... earmuffs.....get out the toboggans.....and enjoy....oh for maryland or blackfort hill.....!
.......every branch big with it.....bent every twig with it.....every fork like a white web foot......every street and sidewalk mute......some flakes have lost their way....and grop back upward....when....meeting those meandering down....they turn and descend again......
....tog go bog e.......
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