NEWS

Avalanche that came down 'like waves' narrowly misses taxi cab on Route 450

02/06/2015 02:43 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT
A taxi driver says being delayed by a couple of seconds saved him from being swept away Friday morning by an avalanche on Newfoundland's west coast.

Bill McDowell was on his way to Lark Harbour on Route 450 to pick up a dialysis patient. He said visibility wasn't great because of a snow storm, but snowplows were out clearing the roads.

McDowell's vehicle hit a snowbank he didn't see, and two men towed him out. When he went with the men to a nearby store, he earned that dialysis appointments had been cancelled for the day, so he turned around to return home.

McDowell got as far as "The Scrape" — a rock face that goes straight up with square blocks of rocks contained by wire at the bottom.

"Just as I was getting to that area, it took me couple of seconds for me to even realize what I was looking at because I saw the snow, and it was coming down, and all the snow on the side of the cliff was coming down into the road," he said.

"And I tried to put on my brake, and the car slid a little bit. And I felt the the snow hit the front of the car, and I jumped out the door and ran up the road that I had just come down. And when I turned around and looked back, the car was just — the front end of the car was lifted up by the snow, and the rest of the snow was still coming down from the mountain, like waves coming down."

Road was impassable

McDowell's car didn't get buried since it was just on the edge of the avalanche, but the area was impassable.

"If I had been a couple of more seconds even into it, it would have either hit me and completely buried me or it would have picked the car up. And if I'd gone over the guardrail, it's basically non stop till you get to the ocean," he said.

"Let's put it this way: a couple of seconds delay saved my life."

McDowell walked back to York Harbour and got a ride to Lark Harbour where he was eventually reunited with his taxi after it was removed from the snow by snow-clearing crews.

The transportation department later reopened Route 450.

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