Stars align to get downed Naujaat water trucks back on road

by Darrell Greer- April 11, 2018

“We got lucky. Very lucky.”

That’s how Naujaat SAO Rob Hedley described the community’s brush with disaster when a brief power outage combined with blizzard conditions to knock both the hamlet’s water trucks out of service.

A truck passes below a group of kids playing on mammoth snowbanks leading to the Rankin Inlet airport following a record-breaking blizzard that rocked Rankin from March 15 to 17, 2015. So far Naujaat and Baker Lake have been leading the way for 2018 snowfall in the Kivalliq. NNSL file photo

Hedley said the weather in Naujaat, like most of the Kivalliq, has been constantly poor for the past six weeks.

He said the blizzard slamming the hamlet at the same time there were brief power problems at the garage holding the two trucks on March 27 and 28 almost created a dire situation.

“I probably couldn’t have told you what blizzard it was now, except for the fact it was the worst one in a string of them, and it got really bad for us with up to 90-kilometre winds,” said Hedley.

The blizzard forced the garage to close so hamlet staff did not realize there had been a brief power outage.

“Normally our maintainers and I check that kind of stuff, but the storm was so bad that none of us went outside to check things out,” said Hedley.

As the storm subsided and hamlet crews began clearing roads, they realized that the garage’s furnace had shut down on March 29 and that the community’s water trucks were frozen solid.

“Once we got them thawed out we discovered all the pumps were cracked and needed to be repaired,” said Hedley. “We were worried that we’d be down for a significant period of time because, with such lousy weather, we hadn’t been able to get any freight in.”

Hedley said they were extremely fortunate in that they were able to make quick repairs to the pumps using salvaged equipment from old, out-of-service vehicles.

He said with the old pumps providing a fortunate stopgap, the water trucks were only out of service for about seven hours and were back on the road that evening.

But by that time, the community was in dire need of water.

“What made the problem worse was that we were just coming out of a series of blizzards, so everyone was either needing water or had already run out,” said Hedley. “If it wasn’t unbelievable enough that we were able to get two trucks back out on the road so fast, the weather cleared enough for a plane to get in the very next day and it had the truck parts that we had ordered quite awhile previously.”

“We got lucky. We got very lucky,” added Hedley. “We got caught up fairly quickly, have been able to keep it going, and have stayed caught up ever since.”

Hedley said it’s been a challenging winter.

“We’re going to be clearing snow from now until doomsday,” he said. “I know it’s not just us – Baker Lake has just been buried – but right now I’d conservatively estimate that we have eight times the amount of snow down that we had this past year.”

“We got really lucky this time around, because it could have been a lot, lot worse.”

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