A snowy Wednesday turned into a historic storm when Saskatoon was hit with one of the worst blizzards in living memory.
On Jan. 10, 2007 the city came to a halt when 25 centimetres – or 10 inches – of snow fell in a single day. Whipping winds gusting 70 km/h added to the winter wallop.
Taxis and buses stopped running, the airport was shut down and schools and businesses closed. But across the city, people stepped up to help each other out.
Brennan Pokoyoway worked at the University of Saskatchewan at the time and used to bike to campus year-round.
“I remember it being snowy, but I don’t remember it being anything exceptional when I went to work,” he said.
By lunchtime, the weather was severe enough for the U of S to cancel classes. Pokoyoway and his three roommates returned home, but didn’t stay put for long.
“We put on our warmest gear we could and walked down to the corner of University Bridge and College Drive and just started helping push people up the curve,” he said, adding one of his friends had just travelled through the treacherous intersection.
“No one could make that corner. So if you got stopped on that incline, we basically had to push you all the way through the intersection and then same for the next car behind you.”
The young men heard the vehicles’ tires spinning before they could see them through the snow and wind.
Pokoyoway estimates they were out for around three hours that day, and pushed at least 30 cars.
The foursome made a name for themselves on the radio, as callers told 650 CKOM about their Good Samaritan efforts.
‘Coldest, wettest night’
Alice Farness has been a courier for many years and remembers the weather turning bad around noon on Jan. 10, 2007.
She recalls her son telling her to “shut it down,” but that she had one last trip to make – to the Preston Crossing Canadian Tire.
“I’ve never in my life saw such a blizzard,” she said.
“There was a whole line of vehicles stopped and there was a guy stuck in front of me. And of course, once you stopped – and that snow was blowing in – everybody was in trouble.”
After three hours of waiting, Farness and her van were pulled out by a man with a truck. She then made it to the Canadian Tire, where she stayed the night.
Four other customers were stranded, along with 25 store employees.
“They made their beds in the trunks of their cars and my vehicle was all frozen up solid, but they were good enough to let me into the wash bay there,” she said, adding she was able to get warm and dry.
“We went to Sobeys to get some snacks and stuff, watch TV. Then I got back in my van and went to sleep. I tell you – that was the coldest, wettest night I’ve ever spent in my life.”
Farness remembers heading out the next morning, seeing high snow banks and cars stranded all along Circle Drive. She was also amazed by the city’s swift snow removal efforts.
“The main streets were all clean and ready to go – and that impressed me the most,” she said.
Former mayor remembers hard work by city staff
Don Atchison was serving as mayor during the blizzard.
He credited disaster-management training he took in Ottawa with helping him manage the situation.
But mostly, he said the way the city came through the storm was a credit to citizens and city employees.
“We’ve never had a weather day, you hear of so many cities across the country where they have weather days. We never had to call in the army to help us out.”
Atchison said these days the city is better equipped to deal with the aftermath of a storm like the one that hit in 2007. He said arrangements with private contractors brought in since then greatly increase the amount of equipment available to help dig out.