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State of emergency in Arviat

Blizzard knocks out power to airport, gas station, homes
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John Kuksuk shared this photo on social media from outside Arviat’s airport, which was without power due to the blizzard, leaving a makeshift check-in counter. Photo courtesy of John Kuksuk

With no power at the gas station, airport and in many homes, Arviat’s hamlet council called a special meeting to declare a local state of emergency Friday, Nov. 24, as the past week’s blizzard had knocked out electricity in key town infrastructure.

“As of right now, just about 3 p.m. Arviat time, full power has been restored to the community, including the runway and gas station, which were out of power for the last four or five days,” Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. told Kivalliq News by phone, just after announcing the news on radio.

Council set the state of emergency to last for 72 hours. Savikataaq Jr. said it allows the hamlet to seek additional resources and authority in dealing with a crisis.

“We’re happy that we have full power now but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Savikataaq Jr., mentioning how much snow in town still needs to be cleared.

Some homes were out of power for five days, he added, saying housing corporation staff worked hard to rotate generators throughout the community, but some pipes still burst and the hamlet ended up opening the elementary school on Saturday for people to warm up and get food.

Especially difficult was getting the Qulliq Energy Corporation workers to be able to land and fix the power issues, as the runway had no lights, forcing flights to operate only in daylight.

“I’ve experienced blizzards before but this one was quite powerful, a very intense blizzard that affected the whole community,” said Savikataaq Jr.

Murphy’s Law was in full effect, he said – whatever could go wrong, did.

“It’s been quite the last few days,” said the mayor.

He gave a big thanks to the QEC workers, hamlet staff and housing for their efforts during the emergency.

The peak recorded windspeed in Arviat, at least when monitoring equipment had power, was 119 km/hr during the past week’s blizzard.