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Cape Breton Mayor Cries with Relief as Snowplow Clears her Street, Freeing her from Home Imprisonment

The mayor of Cape Breton’s largest municipality says she wept the night of Feb. 6 when a huge snowplow rumbled down her street in Sydney, N.S., where she had been trapped with her family since a weekend storm dumped 150 centimetres of snow on the community.

“My three-year-old … was so excited,” Amanda McDougall said in an interview on Feb. 7, recalling the arrival of the plow. “It was palpable in the air how happy we all were.”

Ms. McDougall said her top priority as mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is bringing that sense of relief to residents who remain stuck behind massive snowdrifts that have buried cars, blocked sidewalks and clogged paths and doorways.

For the third consecutive day, schools and most government offices were closed across Cape Breton. City hall in Sydney was closed and transit service was suspended. As well, non-emergency health services were reduced across the island and in the eastern counties of Antigonish and Guysborough on the Nova Scotia mainland.

The provincial government continued to urge Cape Breton residents, including the Eskasoni First Nation, to avoid unnecessary travel.

Meanwhile, there is so much snow covering Sydney that regular snow-clearing equipment is breaking down, which is partly why the area has remained under a local state of emergency since Feb. 4.

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“Our machines are great for a typical snowfall, but they were … struggling so hard through that heavy snow,” Ms. McDougall said. “Having these big machines come in from the federal government, Parks Canada and the (provincial) Transportation Department, that’s the only way we’re going to dig out … You can hear the hum of big machinery.”

A 2020 blizzard that brought St. John’s, N.L., to a standstill became known as Snowmageddon, but some Nova Scotians have dubbed this storm Slowmageddon because the low-pressure system parked itself off Nova Scotia’s east coast for almost four days and barely moved as the snow piled up.

In Sydney’s north end, an SPCA shelter was evacuated on Feb. 7 after staff noticed the building’s ceiling beams were sagging under the weight of snow on the roof.

“We currently have 45 animals in the shelter and staff are taking care of them,” provincial CEO Elizabeth Murphy said in a statement. “Our shelter is showing the signs of age and wear. We cannot take this risk.”

Ms. Murphy said staff from an SPCA office in the Halifax area would pick up the 19 dogs, 25 cats and one rabbit and place them in other shelters across the province.

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