The presence of Royal Newfoundland Regiment reservists in a downtown St. John's neighbourhood was very much appreciated Monday.
"Yeah, the army is here," one woman shouted as she raised her arms standing outside a home on Franklyn Avenue.
Approximately 400 military personnel are expected to aid efforts to clear up the streets and help make St. John's a safer place for its residents in the aftermath of a massive blizzard Friday that forced multiple municipalities to declare a state of emergency.
"We have a couple of very busy days ahead of us," Sgt. Hannah Gaultois, one of the reservists lending a hand, told The Telegram. "There's going to be a lot of shovelling. A lot of people putting in 12-plus hour days shovelling alone."
Small teams were spread out across the capital city working through a list of 160 homes to visit as of noon Monday, with more addresses getting added throughout the day. As of Monday, seven teams were in place. Personnel from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick and CFB Halifax arrived Sunday night, and members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment based in western Newfoundland were due to arrive Monday afternoon.
"400 people is a lot of people," Gaultois said. "However, it also a pretty big area to dig out, so we're going to be working essentially around the clock to get everyone dug out."
According to Gaultois, personnel got together Sunday to organize the supplies needed for the task. Monday marked the first day of shovelling and snowclearing for military members.
"We are being fed information from the City of St. John's through their emergency line — the 311 line," she explained. "They are handling the triage for emergency scenarios, and then the information is being handed down to the task force."
Reservists with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were on Franklyn Avenue in St. John's earlier today digging out the entrance to a basement apartment. Story from chat with one of the reservists will be online shortly. @StJohnsTelegram pic.twitter.com/m9pd3yiGAT— Andrew Robinson (@CBNAndrew) January 20, 2020
With lots of attention paid to the request for federal assistance in the cleanup effort, folks who spotted the reservists Monday knew full well what they were there for. A number of residents approached Gaultois and her fellow reservists, mentioning different people they knew in the neighbourhood who could use some help.
"This is something we expected," she said. "We are telling people that we do have that priority line sent to us from the city, so we've been given very specific houses to go and vists. We of course are encouraging everyone to call that city line. We understand that it's extremely busy and difficult to get through.
"Our main priority, which we've worked with the city on, is those that are higher priority for medical conditions. For instance, if you have an appointment to the hospital. If there's an emergency situation. If you can't get out of your home, for example. If there was an emergency such as a fire. Support to senior citizens. Support to those with mobility issues — ones that certainly would not be able to do any shovelling on their own. Those are the main priorities the City of St. John's has handed down to us."
As the snow began to accumulate Friday, Gaultois started seeing messages suggesting reservists would need to be prepared for a week-long assignment. The deployment, carried out through the Canadian Armed Forces under Operation LENTUS, is expected to last for seven days.