Natural Resources


Date: February 14, 1999

Location: Upper Island Cove

Easting: 334100

Northing: 5279650

Latitude: 47° 39' 00" N

Longitude: 53° 13' 00" W

Fatalities: 0

Injuries: 0

Source: Personal Observations by Martin Batterson, David Liverman and David Taylor, Evening Telegram Monday Feb 15, 1999

An 8 tonne block toppled from the top of a 100 m slope, rolled and bounced roughly 150 m, struck a house, and landed on top of a car parked beside the house. Debris from the house, notably the chimney, damaged a second parked car - the rock fall occurred at 6:00 am. A resident within the house was knocked across the room by the impact but was unhurt. Examination of the site by government geologists and consultants with Newfoundland Geosciences Ltd. allowed this incident to be well documented (Newfoundland Geosciences 1999). The rock came from a wedge type failure, and traveled down a direct path, bouncing and splitting into two fragments at the base of the slope. A follow-up study identified several other loose blocks that required stabilization and suggested that risk of future rock fall was high. In response to this hazard, protective measures were installed in the summer of 1999.

News report.. 2/15/99 BY BERNIE BENNETT and MIKE FLYNN, The Telegram, Upper Island Cove

Dorothy Crane has an unwelcome reminder in her driveway of what might have been.

Her car, with one payment left on it, lies under a huge boulder that swept a path of destruction through her home early Sunday morning.

Crane, 46, was in her bed when the boulder the size of a car came tumbling down from the top of the 250-foot mountain behind her house around 6 a.m. The impact when it struck her home drove the bed across the room.

The huge rock then passed through the front end of the house and came to rest on her car with pieces of her bedroom dresser, brick and siding strewn around it.

The four-tonne boulder had narrowly missed a nearby house belonging to Kevin Mercer, demolished a small storage shed, then gouged a one-metre trench in the ground, before bounding into the two-storey home occupied by Crane and her mother, Greta, 76.

Incredibly, there were no injuries.

From her bedroom window close to the Crane home, Maggie McCann, 16, saw it coming down the mountain.

"It was like thunder and when I opened the blind I saw the rock coming towards our house," said Maggie. "I think I was in shock. I couldn't move. The rock turned from coming our way after it struck the shed out back. I just froze."

Her grandmother, Lorraine Coombs, said she never heard a sound until she heard Maggie's scream.

"When Maggie came to her senses she started screaming and shouting, telling us to get up because the mountain is coming down on us," said Coombs.

"I've been living there since September 1968 and there was never anything like that before, except occasionally when people climb up the mountain. And I don't know if I'm going back there again. Definitely not today."

Dorothy and Greta Crane were too badly shaken to speak to the media Sunday afternoon.

"We just got mom settled down now and she is resting," said Gordon Crane, Greta's son. "She is badly shook up by it all. She didn't know what happened. She thought it was a clap of thunder."

He said his sister, Dorothy, was still trembling. "They were extremely lucky," said Crane. "(Dorothy) didn't know what it was until she looked out and saw her car crushed under the rock."

Wanda Mercer said she doesn't know how the boulder missed her home. "I think that when it hit the shed it changed direction a bit. The house shook when he struck the ground, It was just a miracle that it missed us."

The rock slide was believed to have been triggered by mild weather. It forced the local fire department to evacuate 12 families from the area. Nearby roads were also immediately closed. Fire Chief Doug Sharpe said he has never seen anything like it. "They were extremely lucky," he said. "A doctor examined the two women shortly afterwards, and both were found to be uninjured but badly shaken." He described the evacuation as orderly and said there were still a few families in the area who were in no immediate danger.

"There is one elderly gentleman on the road with a severe heart condition who would require an ambulance to be moved. But we wouldn't hesitate to do whatever is necessary," he said. It is not known how long residents will be out of their homes but the fire department was to have escorted people back late Sunday for essential supplies before settling in to maintain a watch all night.

Area MHA John Efford, one of the first on the scene early Sunday morning, said he couldn't believe the devastation. "Shortly after I arrived, there were two more minor rock slides, and it was at that point that the town's mayor, Warren Lynch, and I decided it would be best to have people leave their homes."

Efford contacted the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), which sent an engineer to the town. It was then decided that the 12 families would not be allowed to return to their homes until a geoscientist assessed the situation today.

"There are four families on that road who don't have relatives or friends in the area," said Efford. "We've made arrangements for them to stay at motels in Harbour Grace and Bay Roberts. There is also one family that requires compassionate home care and that will be provided." All costs will be paid by the Department of Human Resources and Employment.

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