Woman stranded in blizzard rescued by snowmobiler

Teresa Wright
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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.”

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

 

Organizations: Queen Elizabeth Hospital, RCMP

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, North Winsloe Stratford Brackley

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Recent comments

  • Hope
    March 30, 2014 - 19:49

    All of these comments about putting people down because they were out on the roads. How hard would it be to write positive comments or none at all because that lady survived and she is alive that's what people should be grateful for especially because she is a nurse, and may of saved or help some of your family members. There are so many tragedies and this was a positive turnout but I guess some people need to have there say with there negative comments. As I was raised if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all!

    • Deryl Gallant
      March 31, 2014 - 18:25

      Thank you for writing what I wanted to...being her husband I'm a bit biased....so I chose not to write ...and chose not to bother responding to any of obvious the garbage below .

  • frankie
    March 28, 2014 - 18:58

    I know the young lady who was stranded. I know her to be a very kind, caring, considerate and a very smart person. To me looking out your window and thinking it looks ok to get to work is reasonable. Leaving home at 4:00 for a 7:30 shift is leaving home early. Once she saw things were worse than they appeared to be she turned around and headed back home. What was her motive for venturing out? No it wasn't for a joyride. No it wasn't to get coffee. She was trying to relieve some very overworked and some very tired nurses. I very sincerely thank the gentleman who rescued her and also the many people who tried to facilitate her rescue.

  • Melanie
    March 28, 2014 - 13:44

    Warnings to stay off the road are useless when companies still expect their employees to come in during inclement weather (and I'm talking about non-essential services). My employer doesn't have a snowstorm policy, they say "You live in Canada, it's going to snow, deal with it"

  • wiseguy
    March 28, 2014 - 09:12

    I too am an essential service worker if there is an impending storm I'm at work in lots of time and I don't get paid for being early, it's just not worth running the gauntlet to risk life and limb...as for "fellow nurses" comments about these guys playing around in the snow I feel if you have no reason to be out ..they should receive a hefty fine and lose points.

  • suggestion
    March 28, 2014 - 06:58

    In Quebec and other places in western Canada where highways have to be closed, they have big steel gates that the police and transportation can swing out across the on-ramps. These gates have reflective stickers and some even have flashing warning lights on them. A set on each side of the Hillsborough Bridge would have solved all of these problems and wouldn't have cost only a couple of thousand dollars - probably a lot less than the vehicle damages, the salaries of emergency workers, etc. That bridge is a provincial government responsibility but obviously the provincial government doesn't take the safety of citizens very seriously... in fact it never has.

  • Phil
    March 28, 2014 - 04:23

    Maybe if they didn't warn people to stay home every time we get 5cm of snow, and save it for the really big storms the public would take it more serious. Proverbial boy and wolf

  • Fellow nurse
    March 28, 2014 - 03:12

    Absolutely foolish. I too was scheduled to work a nightshift at the QEH so myself and a few others headed in at lunchtime and waited for our shift. That way we were on-site before the storm started and day staff got to get some sleep. Sadly a lot of staff did not do this and it meant very over-worked & dangerously exhausted staff in many departments.

    • Susan Davison
      March 28, 2014 - 10:20

      I agree. I am a nurse and having to work for 36 hours straight without a break is very dangerous for everyone. I wish more staff had come in, in anticipation of the weather.

  • Bar Staff
    March 28, 2014 - 01:27

    Kudos to those who tried to get into their jobs where the businesses are 24/7 due to need, but I think it absolutely foolish to see bars advertising they are still open and come get your drink on.

  • think next time
    March 27, 2014 - 22:57

    There was plenty of warning for this storm and how quickly things would deteroate. Its hard to understand why anyone would think their job or anything would be worth putting yourself, and your rescuers in that much danger. Next time, heed the warnings of the officials, and stay off the roads

  • Jay
    March 27, 2014 - 20:47

    One of the issues that surround people venturing out when its not fit and the police say off the roads is that some people who have inconsiderate bosses will not close their doors and people cannot afford to take a vacation day for staying home. If businesses don't close it should be on the bosses head if something happens to an employee trying to get to or home from work

    • rural worker
      March 28, 2014 - 08:00

      I totally agree. People are quick to be critical of those who tried to get into work who felt they didn't have a choice but to try to get in.They never mention about the employers who pull out all the guilt trips and threats to get you there. There should be something in place to hold those people accountable. When the weather is that bad employers should be made to close ( stores and non emergency services) so that the employees can remain safe at home and those idiots that want to go out for a spin have no place to go, like the store for a pop.

  • jim bob
    March 27, 2014 - 19:55

    maybe the r.c.m.p should talk to the nurse mangers at several of the long term care facilites in charlottetown who are on the phone harrassing staff to get in

  • unreal
    March 27, 2014 - 19:52

    How stupid. The RCMP were saying stay off the road. Look at all the people including yourself that you put in danger. Yes you were reckless. The other nurses were safe, tired maybe but safe. What would your family have done if you hadn't come back to them.

    • Fellow nurse
      March 27, 2014 - 22:45

      How dare you criticize someone for trying to get to the hospital to take care of the sick and dying! I'm sure if you had a family member that needed urgent attention at the hospital you would be more than glad that there were plenty of nurses and doctors to go around (which for the record there was NOT last night) . Maybe you should be commenting about the drivers in their big trucks last night who were " out for a rip" and playing around in the snow! Now to me THAT'S reckless!