City of Thunder Bay Logo

This report, written several weeks after the snowstorm took place, summarizes the actions taken by emergency personnel to minimise the effects of the weather upon the city.

Report on 1977 snowstorm

Thunder Bay Area Emergency Measures Organization
101 North Waterloo Street
Thunder Bay, Ontario P7C 4K9
Phone 623-2711
Local 392 & 393
Co-Ordinator: E.A. Fallen


January 16th, 1978


Mr. R. E. Wainio
Chief Administrative Officer
City of Thunder Bay


Dear Mr. Wainio:


Re: Snowstorm 8th December, 1977

The following report on the snowstorm of 8th December is submitted.


On arising at 0600 I heard the snow warning on the radio. I was unable to contact the Atmospheric Environment Weather Office and made a few of my own observations and come to the conlusion we could have a snowstorm.


0815 I arrived at my office in the E.M.O. Headquarters. I phoned the Atmospheric Environment Service Weather Office on their unlisted line. The weather forecast was not encouraging – heavy snowfall warnings with high winds and drifting. Driving in from the east via the Expressway was not bad but traffic was slowing down in the City.


0825 Contacted Carl Sharp, Manager of Public Works, but he had already been advised by the Weather Office.


0830 Mr. J. A. MacDonald, Office Services Co-ordinator, arrived in the Headquarters on his way to City Hall.


0845 Received phone call from Mr. Kozak, Lakehead Separate School Board. Advised him of weather forecast. He advised school buses were not running from rural areas.


0903 Received phone call from R. Waino. Advised him of weather forecast and that John MacDonald was here. We decided to issue a Press Release over radio stations.


0910 Requested John MacDonald prepare Press Release in his capacity as E.M.O. Information Officer, advising the general public of situation.


Stamp: Received Jan 17 1978, City of Thunder Bay City Clerks Dept.
Handwritten: File in Rew. EMO Disaster Plan Manual

Report on 1977 snowstorm


0920 Unable to contact J. Gerow, Lakehead Board of Education, so contacted Jeff Peat re forecast and requested they make a decision, along with the Separate School Board, re closing schools.


0930 Received a call from a Mr. Peter Eisenbach volunteering two snowmobiles if required.


0935 Advised by Ken McLean, Director of Public Transportation, that he had taken Neebing and McIntyre buses off the road because of poor visibility and road conditions.


0940 Checked weather forecast with Weather Office. Forecast the same as before with the addition that it was to get worse by evening. Advised Mr. Wainio of latest forecast. Mr. MacDonald advised Mr. Wainio that buses were taken off Neebing and McIntyre routes.


1010 Received phone call from a Mr. Richard Foster volunteering his services as a vehicle driver.


1015 News Release passed by J. MacDonald to CKPR, CFPA and CBQ (see Attachment #1).


1035 Phoned Weather Office for latest update on weather, and was informed that we could receive a greater amount of snow than was forecast. Mr. Wainio informed.


1045 Experiencing difficulty with telephone system in that outside lines were plugged and inside locals were being tied up. Checked with Mr. m. Robski, Supervisor of Central Communications, and she advised that all lines were busy with calls from City Hall.


1100 Phoned R. Wainio to have City Hall personnel refrain from using outside lines for personal calls as they were blocking the exchange.


1125 Informed by Miss M. Iwaszko, receptionist at Information Desk at City Hall that all bus routes closed down and taxis would be closing down in one hour.


1130 Called K. McLean re situation report on buses. Advised that all buses except Neebing and McIntyre routes were operating. He hadvised Lakehead Univerisyt and Confederation College shutting down at noon.


1135 Called R. Wainio with situation report. Recommended City Hall be closed as an example to private business. Advised by Mr. Wainio that this was being done.


1205 Received report that false information was being passed by CPR re buses. This was corrected by J. MacDonald contacting CKPR.

Report on 1977 snowstorm


1215 J. MacDonald requested to prepare News Release re snowplowing stopping between 1900 and 0200 to allow maintenance and crew a rest, and that City Hall would be closing at 1300.


1220 Notified Clerks of Nipigon and Terrace Bay that they could expect storm as it was forecast to hit their region in late afternoon or early evening.

1235 Called Mayor Assef as requested by Mr. Wainio. Passed situation report. He authorized use of snowmobiles in the event of emergency.


1240 Contacted Mr. A. Main and V. Heyder re snowmobiles to be stationed at all Fire Stations. Also informed Mr. Robski at Central Communications. Notified Inspector Higgins that snowmobiles authorized and their Code was #21.


1235-1305 J. MacDonald issued Press Release #2. (See attachment #2).


1300 Contacted Brian Price re assistance from 4-Wheel Drive Club. Was referred to Mr. D. Bishop and arranged for him to have a group of Club members available. Requested he act as Co-ordinator.


1315 Notified Mr. Gilman, Administrator at Port Arthur General, Miss King at St. Joseph’s and Mr. McNab at McKellar of arrangements and who to contact (Mr. D. Bishop at 577-4350). Also advised them to request snowmobile assistance through central communications.


1330 John MacDonald volunteered to proceed to Dinty’s to purchase lunch. Returned negative lunches – Dinty’s closed due to storm. Oh well, didn’t need the food anyway.


1400 Storm appeared to be dying out. Called weather office for latest update. Forecast still for worsening weather and increase in winds. This was just the lull before the storm. My forecast was that it was the centre of the low pressure passing over us.


1500 Called Road Superintendant of Shuniah Townsip and was advised Lakeshore Drive passable but drifting in.


1605 Call from Snowmobile Co-ordinator at Central Fire Station re “standby status”. Requested they stay until 1800 when situation would be reviewed.


1610 Final Release to news media requesting calendar parking to be observed and to remain off streets so that plows can work without interference.

Report on 1977 snowstorm


1615 Call from Weather Office advising Heavy Snow Warning over. Blowing snow forecast. Weather Office had passed this to all radio stations.


1620 Phone call from T. Fell, Director Engineering, re reasons for closing City Hall. Weather was good at this time but did deteriorate again at 1630.


1630-1930 Numerous calls from Central Communications re suggestions and recommendations for future problems. Many calls being received to supply transportation. Not essential.


2000 Call from A. Main of Sno-Surfers located Brown Street Fire Hall re standing down. Requested they stay until 2100 with a snowmobile to remain at Junot Fire Hall for transportation of a nurse at 2230. Requested a list of eight snowmobilers, with phone numbers, in the event they were needed.


2100 Call from A. Main with a list of names and phone numbers of snowmobilers on standby in their residences. This list passed to Central Communications.


2230 Call from Central Communications re transportation set-up for hospital staff. This was caused by lack of communication in hospital. Information not passed on by Administrators.


2330 Finally secured.


I believed this was a good exercise. There ware probably those who objected to City Hall closing but it did clear the streets of the usual traffic tie-ups at 5:00 p.m. In view of the weather forecast I would say it was a good move.


A problem which could have been more serious was the tie-up for telephone lines by the personnel in City Hall. I would recommend serious considerations be given to the restriction of Dial 9 for an outside line on a good many phones in City Hall, if this is possible. In a more serious disaster, telecommunications be vital.


Respectfully submitted,
E. A. Fallen
Emergency Planning Officer


cc: Alderman W. P. McLean