Dozens of Islanders stranded during storm
A P.E.I. nurse has social media and a stranger with a snowmobile to thank for her rescue after she became stranded for over three hours in her car during the blizzard Wednesday evening.
Elizabeth Gallant was scheduled to work the night shift at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown Wednesday.
From her home in North Winsloe at 4 p.m., the roads didn’t look so bad.
“I thought it looked decent out. I’ve driven in worse before. I thought I’d just beat the storm,” she said. “Two kilometers down the road – totally different story.”
It was a total whiteout.
Abandoning the notion of heading to work, Gallant turned her SUV around, trying to head home.
But she got stuck in a snowdrift.
The roaring storm continued to pick up steam, and within a half hour, she could no longer even see the hood of her car from the driver’s seat.
“At that point I started kind of panicking a little bit, thinking, my husband can’t come and get me because he’s got our four kids at home, and there’s no way I’m calling anybody else to try to come and find me.”
That’s when her husband suggested posting her plight on Facebook.
Within minutes, dozens of people responded. Friends who knew people living in the area began calling around for help.
Concern grew even greater for Gallant’s safety when the tow truck she called got stuck trying to get to her and the RCMP four-wheel drive dispatched to her aid also got stuck. It was stranded for five hours.
“They called me and said, ‘Look Elizabeth, we can’t get to you. I’m really sorry.’”
Three-and-a-half hours later, she was finally rescued by a nearby homeowner on his snowmobile.
She had never met him, but one of her friends who had seen the post on Facebook knew him and asked him the enormous favour of heading out into the blizzard.
Gallant was not the only person who got stuck in the storm that saw more than 50 centimeters of snowfall and winds of over 100 kilometres an hour.
The Mounties received 26 calls for service across P.E.I. Wednesday, most of which were from stranded Islanders.
Another dramatic scene took place just after 5 p.m. on the Hillsborough Bridge, which connects Charlottetown and Stratford. Two vehicles were involved in a minor collision due to extremely poor visibility.
A police officer at scene of the collision then had to jump out of the way when another vehicle travelling over the bridge struck the first two.
The third vehicle was travelling slowly, but weather conditions were severe.
“Visibility was absolutely zero,” Blackadar said. “I don’t know if you can get worse than zero, but it was probably worse than zero.”
A total of five vehicles got stuck on the bridge before police temporarily shut it down to traffic.
All day long, RCMP and public safety officials were issuing strongly worded warnings, urging Islanders to stay off the roads.
Nonetheless, people continued to venture out.
“It’s very frustrating for police when we send out these warnings and then we see vehicles out on the highway, because we send out the warnings for a reason,” Blackadar said.
“I thought it looked decent out. I’ve driven in worse before. I thought I’d just beat the storm,” Elizabeth Gallant, Queen Elizabeth Hospital nurse
Vehicles travelling on the highways also impede cleanup efforts.
“We send the warnings out because we want people to stay home until things are cleared up, even after a storm passes, there are still a few hours where heavy equipment is on the road and they’re trying to make the road safer for everybody in P.E.I.”
After spending the night at the home of the snowmobiler who rescued her, Gallant finally made it home to her family Thursday afternoon.
She is in awe of how many people aided in her rescue.
“The whole Winsloe, Brackley community is just amazing. I can’t even thank them enough,” she said.
She regrets her decision to try to head to work during the storm, but stressed she was not being reckless, just trying to relieve some of the nurses at the QEH.
“You should not ever risk your life to get into work, and at the moment that I left I didn’t feel like I was, but when I got stuck I realized that I did,” she said.
“Your life is more important and your family is more important than getting to work.”