Island hit hard by storm

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
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CHARLOTTETOWN - RCMP Const. Cheryl Duffy could only shake her head over Islanders that chose to get behind the wheel Thursday.
"This is as bad as it gets,'' she said of a crippling snow storm that made travel a dangerous venture at best.
"When you get a blizzard warning, it means stay in.''
Still, as snow piled on the roads and strong winds fueled whiteout conditions, some saw fit to drive. Many would regret the decision.
The RCMP was flooded with calls from stranded motorists seeking help.
Duffy told The Guardian on Thursday that people called police to ask how the roads are while brutal driving conditions persisted with zero visibility reported in many areas.
"I have grave concerns because if people are considering going out on the roads in these conditions they are putting themselves at high risk,'' she said.
In the capital city, stranded motorists used cell phones in three separate incidents to call police for assistance.
"People are not heeding the weather warnings,'' said Sgt. Tom Clow.
Plows hit the main roads at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, says Jack Devine, Queens County dispatcher for the Department of Transportation and Public Works. They were all pulled off the road by 6 a.m.
"Then they were defeating the purpose,'' he said.
"The visibility was just nil.''
How bad were road conditions?
A snowplow and a tow truck were sent to the aid of another plow that had slid off the road.
Charlottetown Police put aside their cruisers for four-wheel drive trucks, but even hesitated to venture out in those rugged vehicles unless there was an emergency.
For the most part, the storm managed to keep most Islanders at bay on Thursday.
Even the dozen New Year's Eve revelers that were arrested by Charlottetown Police for being drunk in a public place ended up with an extended stay at the Provincial Correctional Centre because they could not be released Thursday due to the extreme weather.
Police urged Islanders throughout the day Thursday to stay off the roads. With the exception of emergencies, there seemed to be little cause to venture out.
All levees were cancelled, bringing the usually well-attended New Year's Day tradition to a halt on a day when Environment Canada continued to issue blizzard warnings and highlight the threat of title surges.
Also on Thursday, the Confederation Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles and no flights came in to or flew out of the Charlottetown Airport.
Incredibly, the Polar Bear Swim went ahead Thursday morning in Charlottetown as a handful of people, apparently bent on subjecting themselves to extreme discomfort, made the plunge.
Islanders for the most part were able to enjoy a warm day at home, some no doubt nursing a hangover. Maritime Electric reported only scattered power outages to about 20 homes in Long River, South Melville, Hunter River, Fort Augustus, Souris River Road, Gaspereaux, and Charlottetown.
A check of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital showed no babies were ready to leave the comfort of their mother's womb on such a miserable day even for the distinction of becoming the Island's first arrival of 2009.

Organizations: RCMP, The Guardian, Department of Transportation Provincial Correctional Centre Environment Canada Charlottetown Airport Maritime Electric Queen Elizabeth Hospital Prince County Hospital

Geographic location: CHARLOTTETOWN, Long River, Hunter River Fort Augustus Souris River Road

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