‘Free us’: N.S. woman remains trapped in her home days after snowstorm

Click to play video: 'Rescues continue in Cape Breton following historic snowfall'
Rescues continue in Cape Breton following historic snowfall
WATCH: Rescues and cleanup is continuing after unprecedented snow across Nova Scotia over the weekend. Additional search and rescue teams, along with crews from the provincial government, set out to bring supplies to trapped residents. As Zack Power explains, some expect to still be stuck for a few more days. – Feb 8, 2024

A woman living in rural Nova Scotia says she’s been stranded for days after a record-breaking amount of snowfall covered most of the province last weekend.

Henriette VanVonderen, who lives in Antigonish County’s Meadow Green area, said despite her and her partner George clearing out their lengthy driveway, a 12-foot snowbank still towers at the entrance, blocking their ability to leave. She said as of Thursday, she has no idea when she’ll receive help.

“We’re on a dirt road, so of course, we’re going to be the last ones that they’re going to free,” she said.

“I’ve been watching how everybody’s been cleared out in town, and I’m like ‘Where are the reinforcements?'”

VanVonderen said she’s only been able to clear a portion of her long, winding driveway. Henriette VanVonderen

Earlier this week, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said the province was working with New Brunswick and P.E.I. to get more equipment to clear out roads, and the federal government will provision gear out of Cape Breton Highlands National Park to assist with the efforts.

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Since then, several other organizations including the Canadian Coast Guard and Team Rubicon have arrived to offer assistance.

The snowfall, which was the heaviest in eastern mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, accumulated upward of 100 centimetres in some areas.

VanVonderen said she attempted to clear the driveway by using her snowblower and tractor, but a flat tire emerged on the vehicle after only partially clearing a path.

“We can’t get out to get it repaired because we have no way of getting out the driveway,” she said, adding that the couple are now missing work as a result of being stuck.

“I’m not sure what’s going to be able to free us.”

She said she’s reached out to locals who own similar snow-clearing equipment for assistance. In response, she continues to get the same answer.

“They’ve been brutally honest and said ‘There’s no way our equipment can attack that snowbank. It’s just not big enough,'” VanVonderen explained, adding that she suspects an excavator might be the only machinery capable of tearing down the snow barrier that’s trapping her inside her residence.

She said she’s been told by neighbours that her home, with a driveway that she estimates to be about a seven-minute walk, is the only one in the area that isn’t completely cleared out.

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VanVonderen said she’s been in touch with Antigonish’s regional emergency management office and has been informed that “everything is being done” to clear her driveway, although it could take until the weekend.

“I’m not sure when that’s going to take place,” she said, adding that she hasn’t received a clear timeline.

Global News reached out to Antigonish’s Emergency Management Coordinator for comment but didn’t receive a response in time for publication.

As for groceries and other essentials, she said she’s had to snowshoe to the end of her driveway to collect regular drop-offs from family members.

“It’s not a short walk. We’ve got a long driveway,” she said.

VanVonderen said she got part of her driveway cleared before a tire blew on her tractor. Henriette VanVonderen

In a social media post late on Wednesday night, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said that the province has “hundreds of pieces of equipment working on clearing snow.”

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“They are working 24 hours a day and will continue to do so,” Houston said in a statement, adding that provincial snowmobile teams have been recruited and snow removal equipment will continue arriving in Nova Scotia until all the snow has been cleared.

“These are trying times, I’m really pleased to see so many people stepping up to help one another,” he said.

Looking ahead, VanVonderen said she’d like to see more transparency regarding where resources from the federal government and neighbouring provinces end up once they’ve been requested.

“Where did they go? There’s quite a bit of population between Halifax and Sydney and I think we’ve kind of been forgotten,” she said.

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“The population (in Antigonish County) is not that large so I’m thinking that’s probably why they’re not worried about us.”

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