News Digest: March 27-31

Catch up on news happening on the Halifax peninsula, as reported by other media outlets

Roof of former Halifax high school caves in under weight of snow (Metro News)

Early Friday morning a security guard found sections of the roof of the former St. Patrick’s high school, located on Quinpool Road, had caved in. Two sections of the walls were taken out, and the building, which has been closed since 2012, is set to be demolished in the coming months.

Dalhousie deals with fresh scandal (The Chronicle Herald)

Dalhousie students have been found to be involved in a sex scandal, as an Instagram account called “The Dal Jungle” has been brought to light. The account held pictures of students engaging in sex acts as well as nudity, and the account was only available to males. However, the Instagram account has now been de-activated and five students have been kicked out of residence, as well as 15 students have been banned from drinking alcohol.

Four arrested in drug raids in Kings, Yarmouth, Lunenburg counties (The Chronicle Herald)

On Thursday and Friday four men from Kings, Yarmouth and Lunenburg counties were arrested in connection to drug raids.

Two men, ages 33 and 43, from King’s County, were arrested in relation to 400 marijuana plants being seized, as well as grow operation equipment, and an unsafely stored firearm. Both men were charged with drug trafficking.

Police also arrested a 29-year-old man from Yarmouth and a 51-year-old man from Eastern Passage.

Plane hit antenna array before crash: TSB (Metro News)

Early Sunday morning Air Canada flight 624 crashed and slid off the runway at the Halifax airport. There were 133 passengers on the flight and 5 crew. 25 people were taken to the hospital, and all have been released except for one. Air Canada says that despite the snowy weather, the conditions were safe for the plane to land. The Transportation Safety Board says that the plane hit an antenna array which ripped off its main landing gear. The plane also lost one of its two engines. Investigations are ongoing as to the reason for this occurrence.

McNabs Island cottage to be set on fire (Metro News)

An abandoned cottage on McNabs Island will be burned Tuesday morning, says the Department of Natural Resources. The bad condition of the cottage could pose a threat to visitors of the island and it has been determined that burning is the best option, and will be done by trained professionals. The cottage is not one of the historic homes on the island.







Coping with seasonal affective disorder this winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a less severe depression, when the change of season and light exposure influence people’s moods and energy.

This winter in Halifax has been one of the worst the city has seen in years. Winter has been tougher this year with the multiple severe storms that have been called worse than White Juan in 2004.

More people have been stuck inside and have had to deal with snow and ice making it harder to move around the city.

It is understandable that Haligonians would be feeling a little under the weather due to the circumstances that they have been facing.

But what is the difference between being under the weather and having seasonal affective disorder?

What is seasonal affective disorder?

 Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens during a season, usually winter, and lasts until the end of that particular season.

Approximately two to six per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their life, according to Mood Disorders Association of Ontario.


The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)
The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)

“Seasonal affective disorder is related to light levels. In winter the days are shorter, people are more confined inside and they suffer from lack of light,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, a professor at Dalhousie University in the psychiatry department.

It can be seen as a type of hibernation response where people are more likely to sleep in longer and be less active, but they also have signs of depression, says Morehouse.

Seasonal affective disorder is not as severe as depression and it rarely becomes a pathological depression.

What are some signs and symptoms?

 Seasonal affective disorder deals with people’s moods. Most people will start feeling sad or grumpy and have a lack of interest in doing their usual activities.

“Most people get impatient when normally they are not like that, and they are not wanting to get out of bed or do activities, you just have to know yourself and identify a change,” says Morehouse.

It has been shown that women are more affected by this disorder than men, but anyone can become vulnerable to the disorder.

“Starting around October when days start to get shorter is when people can start feeling the affects of the disorder,” says Morehouse.

In most cases people will start feeling better in March when days are longer and there are signs of spring.

“This year it might be delayed because people will still be stuck inside with the snow, but I have not seen more cases because of the bad weather,” says Morehouse.

What are treatment options?

 “Treating it involves giving people more light or they can be given antidepressants,” says Morehouse.

There are two options for getting enough light; people can either go outside or be exposed to a light fixture that is around 5,000 to 10,000 lux for around 30 minutes per day in order to receive enough light.

“The best advice is to get out, get active and get light,” says Morehouse.

Halifax prepares for the snow to melt

The Halifax Regional Municipality continues to clean up the piles of snow that surround the streets and are now preparing for a risk of excess water once temperatures start to rise.

Halifax has been hit with 111.3cm of snow and 121.7cm of precipitation in the month of March alone, according to Environment Canada. The question now is what will happen when all that snow melts.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last week especially to open up catch basins, those are the drains, in the areas that we know always have [flooding] problems,” Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for HRM, said Wednesday.

catch basin
Cleared catch basin on the corner of Walnut street and Shirley street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

Although the amount of snow is not a record breaking amount, the impact has been overwhelming and a lot of people have been comparing it to White Juan that happened February 2004.

Snow lines the streets in heaps reaching heights of two metres or higher and once temperatures start to rise, and rain begins to fall, all that snow will turn to water, possibly swamping our streets.

“We have essentially a list of about 200 hot spots around the city where, particularly last month, we saw issues, so we wanted to make sure that those were opened up before we got any rain,” Stairs said.

According to Environment Canada, Halifax Metro and Halifax County West is expecting another 20-40 millimetres of rain over the next two days, and rising temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

Homeowner Gail tries to shovel snow onto the road before the rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)
Gail, a homeowner tries to shovel snow onto the road before heavy rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

“Knock on wood I haven’t [experienced flooding] this winter, however I expect a big rain tonight so I’m trying to get the snow on the roads so it’ll go that way down to the drain,” said Gail, a homeowner on Walnut Street in the south-end, Halifax, who didn’t want her last name published.

“We often see water on the roads at Bedford Highway. Waverley Road has some problems spots, but I mean every community has its known area,” Stairs said.

“I hesitate to use the word flooding because we’ve had issues where we’ve had deep water on some of the roads. We saw that on several occasions last month in particular and it’s happened every year. It’s not something uncommon or unusual.”

The city has been enforcing overnight parking bans on declared snow and ice days, that started Dec. 15 and will run until March 31. During the day time, police are closing off sections of roads for snow removal. Residents are being asked to help out the city with shoveling and clearing drains when possible.

The HRM has also been asking residents who know where their catch basins are located in their neighbourhood to help clear them out. It will help residents and surrounding neighbours both with the melting snow and with any rain Halifax is expecting in the next couple of days, but it’s not a task some residents are prepared to take on.

“I’m barely keeping up now with the shovelling. I would be willing to [clear catch basins] if I could get ahold of my own shovelling first,” said Gail.

In the meantime, the city continues to clear snow from the roads and sidewalks. Stairs said the city is dumping truckloads of snow in big open fields, but wouldn’t say where. Contrary to rumours, snow is not being dumped in the harbour.


Winter-weary Haligonians spring for getaways

Following two late winter storms, travel agencies in Halifax say they’re seeing a huge increase in inquiries.

By the time Haligonians rang in the new year at the end of December, Nova Scotia had seen grand total of only three centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada. This was perhaps seen as a good omen; a suggestion that it would be a mild winter overall. But in the months that followed, winter returned with a vengeance.

As March comes to an end, some travel agents say business is better than ever as more and more Haligonians are looking to get away.

“I have been completely swamped this year and there is definitely an increase in people enquiring about packages,” Joanne Roberts, an associate at Flight Centre, writes in an email. She says that despite prices for package vacations being higher this year, many packages are still being booked. 

The numbers

#SnovaScotia is real. The Coast said it best:

The “mess” refers to the massive snowstorm that walloped the Maritimes on March 18, only three days after a previous storm.

By comparison, the severity of Nova Scotia’s winter in the first few months of 2015 has been worse than any in recent years. For example, March 2014 saw 36.8 centimetres of snowfall on the province. This year on March 18 alone, Halifax saw a snowfall amount of 48 centimetres. Nova Scotia received 111.3 centimetres this March — three times the amount of last March.

Environment Canada reports that over the first three months of 2015, Nova Scotia saw 301.3 centimetres of snow, or just under 10 feet.

Halifax’s brutal winter has been a hot topic for online communities. CBC’s 22 Minutes even poked fun at the recent storms.

Haligonians searching for the sun

Blair Jerrett, senior director at Maritime Travel, says that they are still in the midst of a busy booking season. He also says that many of their agencies report an increase in inquires about travel packages in the days after storms.

“Without a doubt, we find that weather does have an effect on how busy our offices get in the winter,” Jerrett writes in an email. “Back-to-back snowstorms like the ones we’ve been having the past two months have caused many people —who previously may not have been planning to head south— to consider a last-minute getaway.”

Jerrett says the most popular destinations are the direct, all-inclusive packages in places like Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

Roberts says that cottage rentals in the Maritimes are also booking up faster than usual. She urges people to plan their ‘getaways’ now.

The rest of us will remain in Halifax, trying to remember what grass looks like.

What you need to know about the Halifax parking ban

Waiting to park on the street again? Snow clearing crews have hauled away enough snow to fill the Scotiabank Centre 1.5 times (that’s 24,000 truckloads).

According to the Halifax Regional Municipality, the municipality’s snow clearing crews have hauled away enough snow to fill the Scotiabank Centre 1.5 times (that’s 24,000 truckloads of snow).

The ban is enforced to allow snow removal crews the space they need to clear snow from roadways without being blocked or hindered by other vehicles.

In place since Dec. 15, the overnight parking ban is only enforced during and after ice or snowstorms. Vehicles are not supposed to be parked on the street between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Although the last big storm to hit the region was almost a week and a half ago, the parking ban has remained enforced. This can continue up to March 31.

Find out here where the ban is enforced.

Where can you park?

Thanks to recent snow removal efforts, drivers can now park on wider streets: they must simply be able to leave at least three metres of passable road.

If you aren’t sure how wide that is, consider the width of a parallel parking space. A parallel parking space is 2.76 metres wide, so there must at least be enough room for someone to park comfortably next to your car.

The HRM has also been enforcing an all-day parking ban in recent weeks, but this ban was changed to a “limited” parking ban on Wednesday. Drivers may now also park on roads that have been substantially widened during the day.

When parking in the city, there are a few things to consider:

  • Is your car blocking traffic?
  • Could an emergency vehicle get around your car with ease?
  • Are you blocking any snow crews in the area?

According to Global News, businesses and schools that have opened up their parking to the public during the overnight parking ban include Dalhousie (the Dalplex and Hancock parking lots), the Halifax Shopping Centre, the Dartmouth Sportsplex and a number of lots along the Halifax waterfront. 

What can you expect?

Anyone who defies the parking ban can expect to be towed and/or ticketed. Tickets carry a fine of $50, while towing can cost much more. According to the Chronicle Herald, as of mid-March, before the last two winter storms that buried the province under several feet of snow, there were 9,308 tickets issued and 58 cars towed.

Section 202 of the Motor Vehicle Act states that vehicles can be ticketed or towed if they interfere with the work of the snow removal crews.

Snow removal crews in the HRM are responsible for clearing 3,800 km of road, close to 1,000 km of sidewalk, and 3,600 bus stops. The snow removal process is decided on a priority basis, starting with the busiest roads.

Still waiting to have your area cleared? Check the priority of your road here.



News Digest: March 23 – 26

Catch up on happenings on the Halifax peninsula, as reported by other news outlets.

Trouble Inmate sets herself ablaze at Truro prison (Chronicle Herald)

A women, unofficially identified as Camille Strickland-Murphy of St. John’s, set herself on fire at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro. Strickland-Murphy suffered second degree burns. In November, she was sentenced to 36 months in prison for attempted robbery and breach of probation. According to an anonymous source, the women stuffed her pant legs with paper and using a match or an outlet started the fire. Pamela Goulding, a provincial court judge, said Strickland-Murphy suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. She also has a history of alcohol and drug abuse.

Whalen on N.S budget: Prepare to ‘feel some pain’ (Chronicle Herald)

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Diana Whalen delivered a warning about the upcoming provincial budget. She said the new budget will change the way government does business, including a complete review of department and services in order to cut back. Whalen also announced that the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency would become a Crown corporation led by a private-sector board.

NSCC hikes tuition by three per cent in most programs (Metro News)

On Thursday, Nova Scotia Community College announced that it would raise 2015-16 tuition rates by three per cent for most programs. A three per cent increase, for most students, adds up to an extra $90 in annual tuition costs. Tuition costs for the following programs will not go up: recording arts, health information management, certified welding, gas technician, heavy equipment operator, process operations 4th class, and aviation programs.

Halifax company says industrial snow melters could have conquered Old Man Winter (CTV News Atlantic)

A Halifax company said it has equipment to melt snow. Trecan Combustion builds industrial sized machines to melt snow faster and more efficiently than hauling it away. After the snow is loaded, it is melted in the machine and is driven over a manhole where the water empties into a sewer. Industrial snow melters are currently used at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and the Halifax Shopping Centre. Halifax Regional Municipality considered using the machines, but ultimately found that they would not be worth the time or money due to high diesel costs.

Assault charges dropped against N.S woman with brain disorder (CTV Atlantic News)

Three charges against a women with an intellectual disability have been dropped. According to police, Nichele Benn allegedly struck an employee with a foam letter and a shoe at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre on Dec. 12, 2013. The Crown decided not to proceed with charges of assault with a weapon.

Protesters march for safer sidewalks in Halifax

Group marches from Halifax North Memorial Public Library to Falkland Street in protest of icy sidewalks

A crowd of almost 100 people gathered in front of the Halifax North Memorial Public Library on Friday and marched two blocks to Falkland Street in protest of icy sidewalk conditions.

Chants such as, “Clear the sidewalk, clear the streets, people can’t get out to eat,” could be heard as the crowd marched down Gottingen Street. Some carried signs made of bristol board, while others carried hot beverages to keep warm.

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While protesters marched on the streets, reporters stuck to the sidewalks. One reporter carrying a large video camera slipped on the ice, which one protester called an example of bad sidewalk conditions.

“Just seeing the conditions of the sidewalks … even in the days and weeks following the snow, they haven’t improved,” said protester Alix Todd. “If it seemed like the city was making progress and it was slow progress, I would understand, but it seems like they think that these sidewalks are good enough.”

Todd said that the sidewalks on Gottingen Street are in a “pretty despicable state.”

“I normally enjoy going out for a walk just for exercise and fresh air, and I certainly haven’t been doing that in a few weeks,” Todd said.

Wes MacLean, who needs a walker to help him get around, finds it hard to go outside with sidewalks in their current condition.

“[The sidewalks don’t] allow me to get out, I’m shut in. I can’t do any walking for exercise, and on a fixed income, I can’t pay for physio, so I count on getting out on a daily or bi-daily basis,” said MacLean, who came out to the protest.

MacLean said some people have had to cancel medical appointments and have had trouble visiting soup kitchens and food banks because they are unable to safely travel using the sidewalks.

Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for Halifax Regional Municipality, said extreme weather is to blame for the icy sidewalk conditions. “We appreciate residents’ frustrations with the impact this is having on their day-to-day activities. The recent and sustained extreme weather conditions have certainly posed challenges for everyone, including crews,” she said.

“We must recognize that, in aftermath of atypical weather conditions, our typical expectations cannot be met.”