Snowmageddon: Lambton County Archives seeks stories ahead of 10-year anniversary

A section of Highway 402 near Sarnia, Ont., was left closed for days during 2010's Snowmageddon.
A section of Highway 402 near Sarnia, Ont., was left closed for days during 2010's Snowmageddon. Glenn Ogilvie / The Canadian Press

As the 10-year anniversary approaches of a massive snow event that covered much of southwestern Ontario, a Plympton-Wyoming museum is looking to gather memories in effort to record history and plan for the future.

Lambton County Archives has issued a call for stories and photos from the winter storm that’s commonly known as Snowmageddon.

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The multi-day storm hit on Dec. 12, 2010 and saw more than 1,500 motorists stranded in deep snow on Highway 402 and other nearby roadways.

Along with Lambton County, the storm also hit London, Middlesex County and other surrounding areas before it began to subside on the morning of Dec. 14.

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Nicole Aszalos is an archivist with Lambton County Archives and says Snowmageddon paints a portrait of a community stepping up to the plate to help each other.

“There’s so many residents that were rescued by snowmobile bus and even the Canadian military helicopters came in, and all of those stranded were found to be safe,” Aszalos said.

“The aim of this is to capture all of these stories as it’s still in our thoughts. Many of us, including myself, we all personally experienced and were impacted by this.”

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Aszalos was south of Strathroy and home from university when Snowmageddon hit. She remembers Christmas baking with her mother as vehicles started to get slower and slower outside.

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“It just was unbelievable. You could not even see the tree in front of our house,” Aszalos said, adding that her home had a gas fireplace to keep them warm in the following days.

“I remember the next morning, it was just so quiet outside… you heard nothing, but the howling of the wind and the sound of the snowmobiles very faintly in the distance.”

John Prins is the owner of Petrolia-based manufacturer Sofsurfaces and was involved in the rescuing of dozens during Snowmageddon.

Prins said it began when he saw a tanker truck sitting near his driveway late at night. The next morning, the truck was still there and Prins learned from the driver that it had run out of fuel, leaving him stranded in the cold.

After that, Prins invited the driver into his home so he could warm up inside.

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“He came into our house and he says, ‘you know, there’s a guy behind me too,’ and I said, ‘well, tell you what, you stay here, I’ll go get him’,” Prins said, adding that he had both drivers stay over for the night.

“Then, the next day, I realized that there’s just a huge row of people all up Highway 26, all the way up to the 402, and so I went and started knocking on doors.”

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From there, Prins was able to wrangle dozens of motorists stuck in the snow, including a tour bus full of people who claimed to have been “surviving on Jack Daniels.”

“The next thing you know, we basically pulled that whole group, maybe there was like, I don’t know, 35, 40 people,” Prins said.

“They all came into our house, they all kind of sat around. We fed them breakfast and coffee and started talking to them.”

Prins was able to keep folks fed with food from his neighbours. Another neighbour was able to use his farm equipment to dig out stranded vehicles from the snow.

“He came out and basically worked all that day going up the road and digging trucks out of the snowbanks and out of the big drifts, giving them a jerk with a tow rope and pulled them up to the road where it had been plowed,” Prins said.

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A Sarnia police officer checks on stranded motorists on London Line, East of Sarnia, Ont., on Tuesday Dec. 14, 2010.
A Sarnia police officer checks on stranded motorists on London Line, East of Sarnia, Ont., on Tuesday Dec. 14, 2010. Glenn Ogilvie / The Canadian Press

Aszalos says they’ve had a great response so far to the new campaign at Lambton County Archives.

While the finished project will offer a frigid look back into local history, Aszalos says it will also help prepare for what may come in the future.

“We’re also collecting stories that simultaneously help emergency management coordinators better understand how our emergency preparedness had changed since the event,” Aszalos said, adding that it also plans to dive into what emergency kits should carry to prepare for an event such as this.

Those looking to submit a story or photo can do so on Lambton County Archives’ website.

Click to play video 'Anthony Farnell’s 2020-2021 winter forecast for southern Ontario' Anthony Farnell’s 2020-2021 winter forecast for southern Ontario
Anthony Farnell’s 2020-2021 winter forecast for southern Ontario