Wednesday, April 23rd11.8°C

Rescued from snow storm

UPDATE 12:30 P.M.

Steve Darby says they are now able to safely get down the road after the snow clearing crew got to their home just after 11 a.m.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has replied to the situation with the following points.

  • The safety of our highways is our top priority, and the ministry’s maintenance contractor is always ready to respond with snow clearing activities, regardless if the resort is open or closed.
  • In this case, the maintenance contractor was aware of the snow forecast and had a truck and operator working overnight on Silver Star Rd, along with a second truck on stand-by.
  • The storm dropped more snow than expected with a total of 35cm of wet heavy snow throughout the overnight period.
  • The maintenance contractor mobilized the second truck and a grader this morning to assist with snow clearing.
  • The priority was to maintain the primary access road, and crews are now completing the cleanup on the local side roads in the area

Have you been snowed in at Silver Star or other local mountains and feel the clearing crews don't get there fast enough once the mountains close for the season? Email us at [email protected]

Vernon paramedic Steve Darby is chomping at the bit to get his road cleared after 13 inches trapped his family in their home on Silver Star Mountain.

He says he has made dozens of calls for help, many unanswered, and all promise that it would be cleared up by Wednesday morning have been broken.

“Since 6 p.m. last night I have called JPW dispatch (The Ministry of Transportation contractor for the area) and asked why our road hadn't be plowed and yet Silver Star Road had been plowed at least twice and looks like it had been sanded as well,” said Darby.

“I have had to leave message after message and I am really fed up,” he adds.

Darby says his wife, kids, and in-laws were able to get up the road, Purcell Drive, before 5 p.m. safely but by the time he got home it was no longer drive-able.

“I came home from a shift at about 7 p.m. and could not make it up my road so I had to walk over a kilometre home and leave my car down on Silver Star Road,” said Darby.

He phoned several other times in the evening and spoke to different dispatchers. He says he was ensured each time that crews were working through the night and his road would be cleared by morning.

“At about 9 p.m. an employee from JPW called and and I addressed my concerns with him. He said there would be a plow working through the night and that my road would be cleared,” explained Darby. “Then I woke up this morning at 8 a.m. and my road had not been touched.”

He measured the snow on the road it was over 13 inches or 33 centimetres.

“I can't get to work, I am a paramedic at the Vernon station for BC Ambulance and I have a shift that I would like to make.”

He says four households on his street are occupied year-round and are all snowed-in and affected. He believes this is a serious danger if someone were to need emergency assistance.

“It just seems like they don't care. This happens every spring after Silver Star Mountain closes that the snow plows have a very delayed response time, like we don't matter,” said Darby in frustration.

“There are permanent residents that live up here year-round. There are families that live up here. If you ever needed to get an ambulance up here in a snow storm like this, it is not going to happen, it is a real safety concern.”

JPW Road and Bridge Inc. told Castanet on the phone that they have crews in the area dealing with this flash storm, saying they have had crews there working all night long and they are getting to everyone as soon as they can.

As of 11 a.m. Darby says he saw the crew coming up his road, several hours after he and his neighbours and children had to be down the mountain for work and school. He says even the grader is having issues getting up the road.

“It drives us crazy. JPW (Argo before them) have delayed response times when Silver Star Mountain closes. There are families that live up here with little kids. The school bus comes all the way up to the main parking lot to pick the kids up. There are huge safety concerns,” added Darby in frustration.

The Ministry of Transportation is looking into the situation and will get back to Castanet with their response.


Snow plow issue ongoing

After our initial story Wednesday morning of a family trapped by snow on Silver Star Mountain, more mountain users have come forward claiming this is not an isolated issue.

As it turns out, many are feeling neglected and trapped by the lack of snow removal and road maintenance on Silver Star Mountain including the mountain itself who says enough is enough.

“This has been an ongoing issue (snow removal and road maintenance) all season. I have several documented incidents/e-mails where myself on behalf of the Resort, as well as local residents have contacted JPW (snow removal contractor) as well as the Ministry of Transportation from now back to December regarding poor road conditions,” explained Brad Baker, Acting GM of Silver Star Ski Resort.

He agrees that the service gets worse when the mountain closes for the season, but says it's a year round problem.

“As an example, over the Christmas period, our busiest, the roads in the residential areas up here were so narrow that there were areas that two opposing vehicles could not pass. Pedestrians were seen hopping onto snow banks to avoid vehicles. We even went as far as contacting the Office of the Premier asking for action,” said Baker who added the picture above as proof of road conditions on Dec 28, 2013.

He claims he even met with Ministry staff yesterday early in the afternoon and warned them the roads were treacherous and they needed to send someone up as soon as possible, he says they promised a JPW standtruck/plow would now be assigned to the area well into May.

“We may be closed for skiing at the moment, but we still have upwards of 60 staff that commute up and down here daily. This is not just a ski resort, it’s a community, and an economic engine that deserves the same level of service 12 months of the year as residents and businesses in the valley expect and receive,” argued Baker.

“The situation has been downright dangerous at times, with the roads to the point where emergency vehicles responding on the roads would be severely challenged to get to their destination. It seems to be all a budgetary matter. We place the safety of our guests, staff and residents at the top of the list in everything we do at the Resort and we are concerned for everybody about this ongoing road maintenance issue.”

Matt Olson also lives up the mountain and says he has been trapped in his home for two days at a time.

“I live on Hartnell Road and it is very steep with lots of quick sharp curves and it can be very dangerous,” explained Olson. “But it is considered a secondary road and does not get taken care of.

Castanet contacted JPW, they told us to talk to the ministry responsible.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has replied to the situation with the following points.

  • The safety of our highways is our top priority, and the ministry’s maintenance contractor is always ready to respond with snow clearing activities, regardless if the resort is open or closed.
  • In this case, the maintenance contractor was aware of the snow forecast and had a truck and operator working overnight on Silver Star Rd, along with a second truck on stand-by.
  • The storm dropped more snow than expected with a total of 35cm of wet heavy snow throughout the overnight period.
  • The maintenance contractor mobilized the second truck and a grader this morning to assist with snow clearing.
  • The priority was to maintain the primary access road, and crews are now completing the cleanup on the local side roads in the area. 

Friday night market a go

A Friday night market in downtown Vernon has been approved after a slight hiccup last week had market organizers waiting for an answer.

Last week Vernon City Council had asked the Downtown Vernon Association (DVA) to ensure that the majority of business owners in the area approved of the market, the DVA got the answer quickly and the council gave them the go-ahead.

“We had a special budget meeting planned for Tuesday and we added this as a late item because the DVA was prepared and ready,” explained Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

The DVA presented the required vote and it was resoundingly in favour of the Friday night avenue market.

“The businesses were overwhelmingly in support, 90 per cent plus, so council approved the DVA request and congratulated the DVA members on their good work and good processes.”

Swatazky feels the market will be a great addition to downtown Vernon.

“Anything that brings people and activity and life to the core of your community and to your downtown business area is really a measure of success,” he said. “I think this is another step in many that have been taken over the last number of years to try to make sure we have a thriving heart in our downtown.”

DVA Executive Director Lara Konkin is pleased with the decision, despite the delay.

“We are going ahead full steam, May 9 will be opening day,” said Konkin. “I am thrilled, I am excited, it's great news for downtown.”

“Council wanted to ensure we had the support of our merchants which we knew we had, so we went and did that and presented it to them and the results were more than adequate at 93 per cent of the businesses we surveyed wanting us to put the avenue market on.”

She had mentioned concerns that the delay would hurt the market and vendors, but now feels they will go ahead without any further delays.

“It is going to be a challenge to get everything on track again as we were supposed to start on May 2, but we have postponed to May 9 to make sure we had enough time,” said Konkin. “We have had such a huge overwhelming response to this from our merchants and from outside vendors that I don't see it being a problem.”

The market will take place every Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. from May 9 until the fall.

It will include all merchants in the six block stretch of 30th Avenue in downtown Vernon.

As well, two to four blocks of the road itself will be closed entirely during the market to allow the addition of outside vendors (farmers, bakers, artisans etc.) who can then set up their wares in the closed road.

Power restored

Update -- 11:15 a.m.

Power has now been restored to areas in and around Vernon, according to BC Hydro.

Over 1,400 residents were left in the dark at some point in time over the past 12 hours when the power went out late Tuesday night.

Hundreds of North Okanagan residents are in the dark after a power outage near Silver Star Mountain.

BC Hydro is reporting that 817 customers are without power this morning, after trees fell down across some power lines.

The lights went out on Silver Star Road around 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

Power is expected to be restored by 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Another smaller outage is affecting a handful of customers in the 5600 block of Brendwood Road. Those residents should see their power turned on by 10:30 a.m.

That cause is still under investigation.

A day with the K9 dogs

In support of the Okanagan Humane Society and HugABull, the Vernon K9 unit offered up a day with the dogs last fall during an  auction.

On Tuesday in Vernon, the winner redeemed her prize.

“So the winning bidder gets to come out with us and see what we as police dog handlers do for training of the dogs,” explained Constable Marc Jones.

Salmon Arm resident Sherri Funfer got to spend the day with the entire North Okanagan K9 team.

“It was a wonderful surprise at Christmas because my brother and sister-in-law went to the HugABull fundraiser and they saw this ride-a-long auction prize. And they knew I loved German Shepherds and loved dogs and knew I would have an amazing time,” smiled Funfer.

She was able to watch the dogs track, enjoy a 'take down,' and other aspects of their daily lives.

Funfer joked that the animals were a little bit more 'dog' than she was used to at home.

“My first dog when I was little was a German Shepherd so I have always loved them but we have a little Jack Russel, Ruby, so it is a little different,” she laughs. “A little 14-pounder versus these guys.”

By the end of the day, Funfer had really enjoyed getting to know the hard working pups.

“What amazing dogs, they are just wonderful, and so friendly too,” she added. “I think there are a lot of misconceptions about police dogs, but they are amazing dogs and like big puppies.”

That point was supported by Constable Marc Jones who says although you should always be wary around a working police-dog, they are socialized around humans and are friendly -- if you're not the bad guy.

“We are not going to say that you should not be cautious around a police dog but we bring them to school talks, (and) I let kids pet my police dog. But it is always done when everything is ok. For the most part they are extremely friendly,” said Jones.

Funfer says the entire day will be a special experience for her.

“It is a truly wonderful opportunity so I hope more people get the opportunity to do it in the future,” said Funfer. “I can really imagine more people would want to go to the fundraiser and get the opportunity to bid on this. Any dog lover would really love this.”

Constable Marc Jones says at the end of the day Funfer will have had a real all-dog experience.

“We are going to take her out and show her all the different profiles that the dogs will work on. One of them will be tracking, then criminal apprehension which will involve some dog biting, drug searching and some different searching profiles,” explained Jones.

When asked if Sherri Funfer would be wearing the padded suit for the dogs to take down, Constable Jones said they wouldn't put her through it. He claims they have many young tough-as-nails officers excited to wear the suit and train with the dogs.

“We won't put her through that,” laughed Jones. “The dog bites are pretty powerful when they do bite down with the pressure that comes down. That's why we have all these nice young men and women officers here today who want to be dog handlers themselves one day. They love it, they volunteer to get in there and work with the police dogs.”

Funfer was also able to see two new puppy additions to the police force and watch some of the training they go through.

For more information on the Okanagan Humane Society click here or for HugABull click here.

Pellet gun scare

Walking in downtown Vernon while intoxicated and carrying a concealed weapon did not bode well for one man this past weekend.

Police were called after witnesses saw a man carrying a gun near the Shoppers Drug Mart Sunday..

“At about 3:40 p.m. our officers from the Vernon Detachment were called to a report of a man with a gun in the downtown area,” explained RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

RCMP found the man and say he was intoxicated and carrying a black gun under his jacket.

“He was arrested for possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, however, it turns out that he had just purchased the pellet gun and was on his way home,” said Molendyk.

The 56-year-old suspect was held by police until he sobered up.

He relinquished the pellet gun to the police and did not face any charges.

Curfew check nets drug bust

A late evening curfew check of an offender on probation turned up a lot more than expected.

“This one comes under perhaps the not so bright file,” said RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

On April 22 just before 1 a.m. one of our officers conducted a curfew check on a man bound by a daily curfew to be in his home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“While our officer was walking by his window he looked in and noticed the suspect was cutting a substance with a razor blade,” explained Molendyk. Several other people were at the home as well.

The 22-year-old suspect was arrested and returned to cells.

“A search warrant was obtained for the residence and approximately 50 grams of suspected cocaine, about the same amount in marijuana, two phones and other drug trafficking related items were seized.”

The suspect is expected to appear in court Tuesday to answer to drug charges.

The other people in the residence were released without charges.

“These individuals are bound by curfew and we are set to deal with some of these individuals who are on curfew to make sure that they comply. They can be checked once or a twice a night. And if they fall under our prolific offender program, then we really monitor them to make sure they abide by their court order rules,” added Molendyk.

Read more Vernon / N. Okanagan News


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