'Getting around is still a challenge': Saskatoon wheelchair user thankful for help digging out after snowstorm
SASKATOON -- It’s been hard enough to navigate the city in a vehicle, and even challenging on foot as the city of Saskatoon continues to dig itself out of under two major snowstorms.
For people facing mobility issues, restricted to using a wheelchair, it’s been difficult completing the simplest tasks such as crossing the street to get mail, or getting out and getting groceries.
“This is crazy. I haven’t seen snowfall like this in 10 years,” said Nolan Barnes.
Barnes, 28, has been in a wheelchair since May 2010 following a rollover crash. Barnes said he’s thankful to his friends and neighbours who helped him get out of his house on Monday.
"Without people helping me even to get to my truck in the morning that would have never happened," Barnes said. “There was so much snow you couldn’t stop at any business, couldn’t get to any store.”
Once he managed to get free of the snow, Barnes spent 12 hours driving around Saskatoon helping others swallowed up by the snow.
In a snow-clearing update Thursday, the city said graders have hit all priority one streets, and were working to tackle residential neighbourhoods in Saskatoon. The city said crews have also cleared 50 per cent of the 1,800 kilometres of priority sidewalks.
Understanding the city is doing everything it can to make the city passable, challenges for people with mobility issues will remain.
“I’ve seen a lot of people clearing off the sidewalks which is really good, but you still have almost a three-foot bank beside you. And it’s not really that smooth so getting around is still a challenge and I think it will be for the foreseeable future.”
Barnes said it’s important to check in with neighbours and friends who have mobility issues, and make sure they are okay. He said he’s spoken to individuals who haven’t left home for four days.
City manager Jeff Jorgenson said the city’s snow-clearing effort has called on private contractors to join the effort to clear residential streets. Drew Mitchell with ASL paving said 50 employees have joined the city’s snow-clearing effort, along with loaders, graders and plows.
“It’s an incredible amount of snow. I find it amazing at how fast the city has become mobile,” Mitchell said.
On Friday Mitchell said employees were finishing up paving project in Saskatoon, and just 72 hours later, they switched to snow-removal.
“These men have worked a lot of hours and they’re all committed,” Mitchell said, adding during his time with ASL, this is the first instance he can recall of the city calling for private contractors to help with citywide snow clearing.
Barnes called the city’s plan for snow clearing and snow removal ambitious, but it’s what the city, and residents need to get back to normal.
“That’s what we want and that’s what we need at this point,” Barnes said.
“It’s an unusual storm weekend, we get these every so often and it makes me feel good that this will be cleared and for the rest of the winter I won't be stuck at home or I’ll be able to cross the street to get my mail.”