Category Archives: Canada

Nova Scotia | Severe winter weather clean-up continues

Nova Scotians are asked to remain patient and drive with caution as clean-up continues after the latest winter storm.

Most of the province experienced record single-day snowfalls, on top of snow from the previous storm. Several areas have reported ongoing high winds and whiteout conditions.

“Our staff and gear have been flat out across the province, 24/7 since the storm started. First and foremost I want to thank our hard-working crews for their ongoing efforts,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan. “We do not hold anything back when it comes to clearing our roads and keeping drivers safe. With this level of snow falling in such a short period of time, it will take more time than usual to clear what has built up.

“We understand the frustration, but ask that Nova Scotians continue to be patient as our crews continue their work.”

Most main highways are open, though some are down to one lane. Crews anticipate it will be at least 24 to 36 hours before all local and gravel roads are open.

“The extraordinary amount of snowfall throughout the province brought with it a lot of challenges,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Mark Furey, who is responsible for the Emergency Management Office. “I want to thank everyone for their patience and a special thanks to the snow plow operators and first responders for their efforts to help keep Nova Scotians safe.

“We urge people to check in on their neighbours, especially seniors and those with special needs, to help ensure they are safe.”

The Office of the Fire Marshal encourages residents to:
— shovel two exits from their home in case of fire
— clear snow from air exchangers, dryer vents and furnace exhausts
— clear a fire hydrant near their home
— remove snow and ice from storm drains
— be aware of the amount of snow on their roof. Excess amounts can be dangerous. Hire professionals to clear snow off roofs.

For more information, go to novascotia.ca/dma/emo/ .

In case of emergency, residents should call 911 as dispatchers co-ordinate with Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal area offices to ensure first responders can access roads.

Follow Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal on Twitter @NS_TIR for road condition or closure updates.

Prince Edward Island | Winter storm cleanup continues

Islanders are advised that cleanup from this weekend’s storm will take several days as large amounts of snow and heavy drifting means equipment is moving slowly.

“Significant snowfall and high winds over the past few days created zero visibility conditions which led to safety hazards for our plow operators,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Alan McIsaac. “Plows are on the roads; however a significant amount of snow has fallen so it will take time for crews to clear the roads.”

All main, and most secondary, roads are expected to open later today. Some secondary roads may take a couple of days to be plowed. It will be the end of the week until all roads are plowed to two lanes.

“Islanders should drive with extreme care as many roads are very narrow. Our highway maintenance crews continue to work through difficult conditions to widen these areas,” said the minister. “With additional snow forecasted for the week, I thank Islanders for their patience and resiliency, and I thank all highway maintenance crews for their continuing efforts.”

Canada / USA | Icebreaking activities set to begin on St Laurence Seaway and The Great Lakes

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is working closely with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation in planning the spring 2015 icebreaking operations on both the Seaway and the Great Lakes.

The CCG is advising residents and visitors near the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway that annual spring icebreaking operations will begin on or around March 23, 2015.

  • The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Martha L. Black, icebreaker, will enter the Seaway via the St. Lambert Locks (Quebec) as early as March 23 and make its way up the St. Lawrence River.
  • The CCGS Martha L. Black will be icebreaking in the Montréal to Lake Ontario area on or about March 24 and will proceed to Lake Ontario, where it will then assist with harbour breakouts in Picton (Ontario) and Bath (Ontario).  Once these harbours have been opened, the CCGS Martha L. Black will return downriver to assist with shipping in anticipation of the official opening of the Seaway, currently scheduled for April 2, 2015.
  • Other icebreakers will follow as required, making their way to the Great Lakes to provide additional icebreaking capacity to the area.
  • CCGS Griffon and CCGS Samuel Risley will continue to provide icebreaking services on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

The CCG strongly recommends that anglers, snowmobilers and other recreational users leave the ice immediately if they see an icebreaker in the vicinity. The ice may move or break apart even at a significant distance, creating a hazard for anyone in the area of an icebreaker. All personal property, temporary structures and recreational equipment, should also be moved to shore well before these dates.

All dates and routes are subject to change with little or no notice due to operational requirements or sudden and significant changes to weather and ice conditions.

The 2014-2015 winter has produced heavy and persistent ice conditions throughout the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. CCG crews and icebreakers have been working hard to provide icebreaking services during such a challenging time.

Public service announcements made prior to impending icebreaker and shipping activities are issued for the safety of all ice surface users, who can expect disrupted and unstable ice conditions related to icebreaking and shipping operations.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Bell Island residents face possible ferry disruptions due to ice conditions

As Bell Island prepares for the possibility of ferry service disruptions due to deteriorating ice conditions, Eastern Health reminds patients about the importance of preparations that may be required to help manage your or a loved one’s medical conditions.

Residents of Bell Island should consider the:
– availability of medication;
– availability of home medical supplies or equipment;
– importance of keeping in touch with regular appointment booking offices in St. John’s to reschedule appointments, as required; and
– possible needs to travel to St. John’s ahead of time to attend appointments or treatment sessions.

Some patients may be eligible for assistance to offset costs associated with travelling to and staying in St. John’s to attend treatments and/or appointments. To find out more, please call the provincial Department of Health and Community Services, Medical Transportation Assistance Program at 1-877-475-2412 or visit
health.gov.nl.ca/mtap.

If you have any questions or concerns about how best to manage your or a loved one’s medical condition over the coming weeks, please consult your personal health care provider.

Quebec | Lanaudiere – 119 measles cases as outbreak numbers spike sharply

Public health officials in Quebec’s Lanaudiere region confirm the number of cases in a measles outbreak have spiked sharply. All 119 cases are linked to people who have not been vaccinated against the disease.

One of the confirmed cases was at a school – l’Ecole integree de Saint-Pierre de Joliette – in the region during her contagious period. The school in question is cooperating with public health authorities to control the outbreak and prevent additional cases linked to the school.

Each of the parents of children who attend the school received a telephone call from public health officials. All those children at risk for infection have been given the choice to accept or refuse vaccination. In the case of a refusal to vaccinate, the person will be forced to not attend school for a 14-day period after the last case of measles in the school.

A vaccination clinic will be offered at the school on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Parents must sign a consent form prior to the administration of the vaccine.

The outbreak was originally linked to a person who contracted the illness while on a trip in California. The first case of measles was declared on February 10, 2015 and multiple contacts were identified and traced. All the contacts were not vaccinated and were members of large families. Almost all of them developed measles and accepted a 14-day period of self-quarantine.

With more potential contacts under surveillance, public health officials expect more cases of measles to be confirmed.

Vaccination is the best protection against the measles.

 

British Columbia | Nanaimo couple thanks life-saving first responders – #ResuscitationReunion

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A Nanaimo man who saved his girlfriend’s life last year thanked the first responders who first coached him on how to give her CPR and then got her safely to hospital.

​ Michael Oldfield received a BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) Vital Link Award at a ceremony in his home on Feb. 12. The awards recognize the crucial role bystanders can play while emergency crews are being dispatched to a medical emergency.

On January 23, 2014, Kathy O’Leary, 36, and Oldfield, 42, were relaxing at home after a date when O’Leary collapsed in her kitchen, due to an electrical or arrhythmic storm, which is a series of unexplainable sudden cardiac arrests in succession.

“Kathy was lying on the floor unresponsive; gasping for air. I knew she was in serious trouble and called 9-1-1,” Oldfield recalled.  “The Emergency Medical Dispatcher told me what to do and kept me focused.”

Oldfield credits BCEHS dispatcher Aaron Hungar for helping save Kathy’s life.

“He told me how to position her on the floor, where to place my hands, how to count out the seconds between each breath – basically everything. I performed CPR for less than eight minutes before the paramedics arrived and took over, but it felt like a lifetime.”

Using the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) – an internationally-recognized system used by over 2,300 emergency medical services organizations, BCEHS emergency medical call-takers and dispatchers can provide life-saving instructions on CPR, relieving airway obstruction and even assisting with childbirth.

Hungar has given CPR instructions to dozens of callers, but this is the first time someone has sought him out to thank him for his work.

“Successful resuscitation of a cardiac arrest patient is a collaborative effort. It begins with early recognition of a cardiac arrest event, followed by early intervention by members of the public. Anyone can help save a life and it starts by calling 9-1-1 in an emergency.”

O’Leary’s heart stopped several more times that night and was later put in an induced coma at the hospital. It was a long road to recovery that included surgery to place an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, a device that uses electrical shocks to help control life-threatening arrhythmias, in her chest. She had no history of heart disease.

BCEHS responds to between 2,800 -3,000 sudden cardiac arrests every year.  Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of non-accident related deaths among British Columbians.  O’Leary has no memory of that night but hopes her story can help raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrests and the importance of CPR.

“It sounds like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, so sometimes I forget it really happened to me,” O’Leary said.  “My family and I are so grateful to everyone that fought for my life and to have the opportunity to look the paramedics in the eye and say thank you is something really special.”

 

British Columbia | VPD, RCMP and BC Health officials join forces to combat Fentanyl

The Vancouver Police Department, RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, Provincial Health Services Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, BC Centre for Disease Control and BC Coroners Service have joined forces to raise awareness and provide education on the dangers of fentanyl.

A synthetic narcotic that is 50-100 times more toxic than other narcotics, fentanyl is usually prescribed in the form of a patch to control severe pain and the dose must be carefully monitored to avoid accidental overdose. Illicit fentanyl has been showing up in liquid, powder and pill form, and can be masked in virtually any consumable product. This makes it particularly high risk for people who have never used narcotics, or for people who may mistakenly use fentanyl thinking it is something else. These users are in danger of dying, even on their first use of fentanyl.

“In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, the majority of people dying from using fentanyl are not using injection drugs. They are mostly recreational drug users who are snorting or smoking drugs,” says Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health.

Over the past three years there has been a progressive, province-wide increase in the number of illicit drug overdose deaths in which fentanyl was detected, either alone or in combination with other drugs. BC Coroners Service reports that there were over 300 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2014. Preliminary data suggests that fentanyl was detected in approximately one quarter of these deaths, as compared to 5% of deaths in 2012.

“The number of fentanyl-detected deaths throughout the province has increased drastically over the past few years. The goal of this collaborative, multi-agency effort is to raise awareness and provide education about the dangers of fentanyl, to emphasize the importance of being drug smart, and to hopefully minimize death and injury from this high risk behavior,” says Dr. Eleni Galanis, Interim Medical Director, Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Services, BC Centre for Disease Control.

The overdoses are occurring in drug users from all segments of society. Vancouver, Nanaimo, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Prince George, Langley and Fort St. John are the main urban centres with the largest number of fentanyl-detected deaths.

Given the spike in overdose deaths, police and health authorities believe there is an increased amount of fentanyl in circulation, and are warning those who use these drugs, even on a recreational basis, of the increased danger, especially as they may be unaware of what they are taking.

Fentanyl does not discriminate.

“Know your source? Be drug smart.”

FAQ

What does a fentanyl overdose look like?

Early signs of a fentanyl overdose include:

  • severe sleepiness
  • slow heartbeat
  • trouble breathing, or slow, shallow breathing or snoring
  • cold, clammy skin
  • trouble walking or talking

If any of these signs are observed in someone who is known to, or suspected of, taking a narcotic or other drug, call 9-1-1 immediately.

What advice do you have for people who may have unknowingly taken drugs containing fentanyl?

While we advise against the use of illicit drugs, people who do use these drugs should be sure to:

  • don’t use alone
  • start with a small amount
  • not mix substances, including alcohol, as it increases overdose risk
  • call 9-1-1 right away if someone overdoses

Looking for more information on fentanyl?

Call 8-1-1.

Manitoba | Flood outlook – Risk varies in different regions of the province

There is a variable risk of potential flooding across the province according to the Hydrologic Forecast Centre of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation’s first 2015 spring flood outlook.

This first outlook estimates the potential for overland flooding is normal to above normal in the western areas of the province and normal to below normal in the rest of the province.  This could change depending on weather conditions between now and the spring melt.  The second outlook at the end of March will further define the flood potential.

Most of the major lakes are well-above normal levels for this time of the year and the risk for potential flooding is above normal even under normal weather conditions.  Flows and levels in most rivers are well-above normal for this time of the year.

Run-off

The potential for spring run-off is normal to above normal in the Assiniboine River basin, the Qu’Appelle River basin and the upstream watersheds of the Souris River basin.  The potential for a spring run-off is below normal in the Red and Pembina river basins, the Roseau River and the Interlake region.  The run-off potential is near normal in the Saskatchewan River basin and is normal to below normal throughout the rest of the province including the Winnipeg River basin.

The potential for increased run-off in the Assiniboine, upper Souris and Qu’Appelle river basins is a result of above-normal soil moisture content at freeze-up and normal to above-normal snowpack water content.  The Red River Valley has experienced normal to below-normal soil moisture conditions and well-below-normal precipitation, resulting in a low risk of flooding.

Frost in Soil

Due to the extreme cold weather and lack of sufficient snow cover on the ground, frost depth is above normal in the Red River Valley.  Frost depth is near normal throughout the remainder of the province.  Above-normal frost depth means that frozen soil cannot absorb melting water and could result in overland flooding.

Soil Moisture Conditions at Freeze-up

  • southern Manitoba including the Red River Valley –  below normal;
  • western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan –  above normal;
  • Interlake and northern Manitoba regions including The Pas region – near normal; and
  • eastern Manitoba – near normal.

Winter Precipitation

Winter precipitation is below normal to well below normal throughout the central and southern portions of the province including the Red and Winnipeg river basins, the Interlake region and the downstream watersheds of the Souris and Assiniboine rivers.

It is near normal to above normal in eastern and southern portions of Saskatchewan including the headwaters of the Souris, Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle rivers.  Winter precipitation is above normal to well-above normal in central and western Saskatchewan including the Saskatchewan River watershed.

Ice Jams

When warmer temperatures arrive and run-off starts, there is a chance of localized flooding due to ice jams or snow blockages in drains, ditches and small streams.  Major ice jams are difficult to predict as to location and magnitude, and cannot be ruled out.  On most major rivers, ice thickness is above normal for this time of the year due to lack of sufficient snow cover to provide insulation and inhibit freezing.

Ice Jam Mitigation Program with Ice Cutters and Amphibex Fleet

The North Red Community Water Maintenance Corporation will be focusing this year’s ice jam mitigation program with ice cutters and the Amphibex icebreakers on the north Red, Assiniboine, Icelandic, Brokenhead and Fisher rivers as well as the Portage Diversion to reduce the potential of ice jams.

On the Red River, the Amphibex fleet has already broken a seven-kilometre channel down the centre and 15.5 km of ice have been cut, slightly more than this time last year.

The chances of minor localized flooding due to snow blockages in drains, ditches and small streams during the early part of the run-off period will depend on the nature of the spring breakup and rate of melt.

Flood Outlook

The potential for overland flooding is normal to above normal on the Assiniboine, Qu’Appelle and Saskatchewan rivers and the headwaters of the Souris River due to normal to above-normal water content in snow and above-normal soil moisture levels at freeze-up.  The potential for overland flooding is below normal in the Red and Pembina river basins, the Roseau River and the Interlake region.  The potential for overland flooding is normal to below normal for the Winnipeg River basin and near normal for the rest of the province.

The magnitude of spring flood potential is still very dependent on weather until the spring melt.  Flood potential is significantly affected by:

  • the amount of additional snow and rain;
  • frost depth at the time of run-off;
  • the timing and rate of the spring thaw; and
  • the timing of peak flows in Manitoba, the U.S. and other provinces.

Delayed thaw and spring rainstorms could result in rapid snow melt, aggravating overland flooding and increasing tributary flows.  A single precipitation event similar to the rainstorm that occurred in the summer of 2014 could change the flood outlook significantly.

The province’s practice is to plan and prepare for unfavourable weather conditions, the highest levels of the three scenarios.  The outlook shows the risk of overland flooding for the unfavourable weather scenario in the following watersheds:

  • Red River – minor risk;
  • Pembina River – minor risk;
  • Roseau River – minor risk;
  • Assiniboine River – moderate to major risk;
  • southwest region – moderate to major risk;
  • Interlake region and the Fisher River – minor to moderate risk;
  • eastern region and the Winnipeg River – minor to moderate risk; and
  • northern Manitoba/The Pas regions and the Saskatchewan, Carrot and Swan rivers – moderate risk.

Preparations

The Manitoba government and municipalities are continuing to prepare for spring flooding.  This includes working with municipal emergency management teams to review existing emergency response plans and sharing information through conference calls and flood information seminars in Morris, Brandon and Selkirk.

Provincial flood-fighting equipment includes:

  • 2.5 million regular sandbags;
  • six sandbag-making machines;
  • 19,900 super sandbags;
  • 32.5 km of Hesco cage barriers, into which sand or other heavy material is placed;
  • nearly 67 km of water-filled barriers, of which 35.3 km are in rapid-response trailers;
  •  a total of 34 pumps;
    • 17 of which are heavy-duty pumps used to move large volumes of flood water;
    • the remainder are part of mobile trailers kits used to fill water barriers, and
  • 61 heavy-duty steamers.

The Manitoba government continues to work with stakeholders across the Assiniboine River basin through the newly formed Assiniboine River Basin Initiative.  Representatives from the Manitoba government, Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and Manitoba Conservation Districts Association will join other stakeholders for a meeting next week in Moosomin, Sask.  The goal is to discuss options and solutions to common concerns such as drainage, flooding, water quality and drought.

Up-to-date flood information can be found at www.gov.mb.ca/flooding/, on mobile devices at www.manitoba.ca/, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBGov or at 1-866-626-4862 (toll-free).

Up-to-date highway information is available at www.manitoba511.ca, on mobile devices at www.manitoba.ca/, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBGovRoadsor by calling 511.

Ontario | City of Toronto continues to address frozen pipes and urges residents to help each other

The City of Toronto is continuing to respond to an unprecedented number of “no water” calls due to frozen drinking water pipes as a result of the prolonged, extreme cold weather.

The City is urging residents to help neighbours without water until crews can visit the home to investigate the issue. If, during the visit, the pipes are found to be frozen outside, crews will attempt to establish a temporary water supply to the neighbour, if consent is provided.

“Toronto Water is working as quickly as possible to get to each home,” said Lou Di Gironimo, General Manager, Toronto Water. “We have mobilized all available crews, along with staff from other areas and contractors, to enhance emergency response.”

Since the cold weather first hit on February 14, the City has received more than 2,600 “no water” calls – 10 times the number received in a typical year. This number continues to grow by approximately 110 to 130 new “no water” calls each day.

In the majority of cases, investigation has determined that the pipes are frozen within the home. Residents are encouraged to visit toronto.ca/frozenpipes for tips on how to thaw frozen pipes.

If these steps do not work, residents should call 311 and someone from the City’s no water “SWAT” team will contact them within 24 hours to schedule a site visit. Due to current call volumes, visits are being booked five days from today.

Once crews arrive, if the pipes are frozen outside and they have the neighbour’s consent, they will attempt to establish a temporary water supply connection (called a highline) by attaching a hose between the two homes. Neighbours will not be charged for any additional water use during this period.

If a highline is not possible, either for mechanical reasons or the neighbour would prefer not to install a connection, the property will be put on the list to have the outside water service pipe thawed.

To date, there are 223 homes on highline and another 171 on the list to be thawed. Thawing is an extensive process that involves excavating six feet into frozen ground to expose the pipe and apply heat. This can take anywhere from three to eight hours, as each property is different. As a result, it can take seven to 10 days for crews to visit each home to thaw the pipe.

“We understand this is a difficult time for many. We thank everyone who is making an effort to support their neighbour and for their continued patience as we work to restore water to affected homes in Toronto,” said Di Gironimo.

To learn more about how to prevent and thaw frozen pipes and what the City is doing to address the issue, visit toronto.ca/frozenpipes

Ontario | City of Hamilton continues to manage hundreds of calls about frozen water pipes

Hamilton Water is continuing to manage hundreds of calls from residents across the city who have no water due to frozen water pipes. The milder weather we’re experiencing this week has provided no reprieve from the occurrence of frozen water lines. The City has now received over 800 calls related to frozen water services since February 14th.

In an effort to streamline the customer service process and reduce call wait times, all citizen reports of frozen water service and requests for potable water delivery are being directed to hwemergency@hamilton.ca This central email address will provide a single point of contact where requests can be prioritized and actioned efficiently. Residents may still call 546-CITY (2489) or Hamilton Water’s Customer Service line at 905-546-4426 but may experience longer wait periods to speak with a representative. Both call centres have added extra staff to help manage the high volume of calls coming in on this issue.

“Providing reliable and efficient service to affected residents is the top priority for Hamilton Water,” said Dan McKinnon, Director of Hamilton Water. “We thank residents for their patience and want you to know that we remain solely committed to this issue until every affected water service is thawed.”

The current response time for Hamilton Water to thaw a service is about five to seven days. Staff are continuing to retain additional staff and external contractors to assist with the response efforts.

Hamilton Water is now also offering their services to residents as a first response rather than requiring a homeowner to hire a plumber first. This may result in longer wait times but some residents have expressed that they are more comfortable working directly with City staff. If the frozen water service is found to be on private property the City will then bill the homeowner.

The City is making arrangements to open some recreation centres to provide showering facilities for affected residents. More details will be provided once the locations are finalized.

The City also encourages residents to be a good neighbour and check in on elderly or vulnerable people who may require extra support before the City is able to respond to the home.

Read more tips for frozen pipes