The snowbanks in Clyde River are higher than they’ve been in years and the blizzards just keep coming – with another forecast as the weekend approached.
Compounding matters, the hamlet’s loaders and bulldozer are out of commission due to broken parts or because of the use of substitute jet A fuel. The community recently ran out of diesel.
The list of residents calling for water deliveries and sewage pump-outs is long – very long – as water and sewage truck drivers are having great difficulty reaching snowbound homes occupied by close to 1,000 people.
“We’re in quite a predicament right now … we were talking about declaring an emergency and it’s not off the books yet,” Clyde River chief administrative officer Jerry Natanine said of the desperate state of affairs. “If this blizzard continues and we cannot fix any of these equipment, I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’ll have to declare it. That’s an option that we’re still looking at. We’re not ashamed to do it … no community should be shameful to declare an emergency. It would be an emergency when we cannot service the community.”
After close to 10 days of having limited or no heavy equipment and four blizzards, calling for military support is “absolutely” a possibility, the mayor acknowledged.
In the meantime, the hamlet has asked the Government of Nunavut to airlift a supply of diesel fuel into the community, said Natanine.
The municipality flew in a heavy equipment mechanic from Iqaluit last week. He was able to get the bulldozer running but it has since become immobilized again because the jet A fuel is causing problems, said Natanine.
Residents have been demonstrating kindness and teamwork by combining efforts to clear out neighbouring homes and some municipal service roads with shovels.
“It’s just been really wonderful how much people help each other,” he said, but he noted that the volume of the snowfall, the drifts from strong winds and the hard-packed nature of the snow have made it extremely challenging.
He also credited municipal staff for their efforts, lugging water and sewage vacuum hoses over unsteady terrain.
“I’m very proud of all the workers,” he said, adding that some of them work throughout the night. “It’s a big team effort from community members, to mechanics and the drivers and helpers.”
Another factor that has been hindering the Qikiqtani hamlet is global supply chain issues, which means lengthy delays in the shipping of replacement parts for heavy equipment. One loader part that the municipal government ordered three months ago still hasn’t arrived, Natanine pointed out.
“It’s quite unbelievable how much effect it has on our livelihoods,” he said.
Whether Clyde River purchases new heavy equipment to supplement its existing fleet hasn’t yet been decided. The community’s leadership is in the process of planning its fall sealift orders, according to Natanine.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an error. Jerry Natanine is Clyde River’s chief administrative officer. Nunavut News regrets the mistake and any confusion or embarrassment it may have caused.