Manitoba town left with bare grocery shelves as residents brace for another blizzard

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People living in Churchill are worried as they brace for another winter blizzard while waiting for desperately needed groceries to arrive in their northern Manitoba community.

Environment Canada has issued a blizzard warning for the town. The forecast is calling for a strong low-pressure system to push across Churchill on Sunday night before it intensified and heads over Hudson Bay.

The forecast is calling for five centimetres of snow to hit the town and winds could gust up to 100 kilometres per hour after midnight.

Areas along the Hudson Bay coast are expected to see the worst conditions overnight and early Monday morning. Travel is expected to be hazardous and anyone not dressed warmly is at risk of frostbite and hypothermia in cold weather.

The warning comes following a three-day blizzard that swept through the town less than two weeks ago, beginning March 6. The town has been under a local state of emergency since March 10 after the area was hit with 60 cm of snow.

‘In a crisis’

“A lot of families are suffering because they have young children and they need milk,” said local resident Lana Bilenduke.

Bilenduke says there is no bread or vegetables for sale at the store and meat is scarce.

“Everyone’s in a crisis until we get our groceries in,” she said.

Churchill Deputy Mayor Shane Hutchins said shelves are bare at the town’s lone supermarket — the Northern Store.

Hutchins said a freight train hasn’t come into town in nearly three weeks and people are still digging out from the massive blizzard. He said deliveries usually come once a week.

‘We’ve never had anything like this’

He didn’t know the financial cost of the storm.

“I’ve lived here 50 years and no, we’ve never had anything like this,” he said.

Hutchins said people in the town are becoming increasingly frustrated with OmniTrax, the company behind the rail line that brings supplies into Churchill.

No bread in Churchill

There is no bread left in Churchill’s grocery store. (Lana Bilenduke)

He said there’s been “nearly non-existent” communication between the company and the town since snow-clearing ploughs on the line shut down recently.

“There’s a lot of frustration here,” he said.

An OmniTrax spokesperson couldn’t say when the line would re-open but said the snow on the rail line to Churchill is abnormal and difficult for crews to get rid of.

“You can only do so much,” he said.

OmniTrax spokesperson Ron Margulis disputed Hutchins’ assertion OmniTrax has not communicated properly with the town when reached by CBC by phone in Denver, Colo. on Sunday night.

Margulis said the company is working to get a train into the town and has sent notices to communities affected by the line’s temporary closure.

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Manitoba town left with bare grocery shelves as residents brace for another blizzard

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