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Cape Bretoners spend storm at workplaces to care for hotel guests, rescued animals

Members of a high school hockey team stranded at a Sydney, N.S., hotel through the storm help shovel cars out of the parking lot. (Michele Bianchini - image credit)
Members of a high school hockey team stranded at a Sydney, N.S., hotel through the storm help shovel cars out of the parking lot. (Michele Bianchini - image credit)

A core group of staff who moved into the Simon Hotel in Sydney, N.S., last Thursday as a wicked snowstorm approached are now free after being trapped along with guests they served.

"It actually, it was a lot of fun," said Vivienne Clark, just before returning to her home in North Sydney on Tuesday afternoon.

Clark is a server at Trio, the hotel's restaurant. She figures the hotel had about 100 guests over the weekend, including two high school hockey teams.

"I don't think there's any words to describe those kids. They were beyond amazing," she said.

Toward the end of the storm, Clark was waiting on an elderly couple. One them had medical issues, and they needed to leave for home. They had both lost their gloves, but were preparing to go dig out their car.

Simon Hotel restaurant staff Andrea Wadden, Vivienne Clark, Sara Luskey and Cassie Miles stayed at the hotel through the storm to help keep guests fed.
Simon Hotel restaurant staff Andrea Wadden, Vivienne Clark, Sara Luskey and Cassie Miles stayed at the hotel through the storm to help keep guests fed.

Simon Hotel restaurant staff Andrea Wadden, Vivienne Clark, Sara Luskey and Cassie Miles stayed at the hotel through the storm to help keep guests fed. (Cassie Miles)

"I got emotional. I started to cry actually," said Clark.

One of the hockey moms at another table asked what was wrong, and Clark related the story.

"And she was like, 'No way, that's not happening.' And within literally ten minutes, there was probably ten of these young fellas.... They were out in that parking lot, and they cleaned their car off, shoveled them out, and off they went."

At one point, a breakfast cook — a recent immigrant to Canada — was asked if he could come into work through the deep snow. Clark asked him later how he was able to make it in.

"He said 'I crawled and I rolled'."

Hotel managers were washing dishes, and cleaning guest rooms. Hockey players were bussing tables.

"Just how everybody came together, it was amazing," said Clark.

"I've been waitressing for over 45 years and it was probably the best experience I ever had."

The Cape Breton SPCA was still snowed in as of Tuesday.
The Cape Breton SPCA was still snowed in as of Tuesday.

The Cape Breton SPCA was still snowed in as of Tuesday. (Sarah Lyon)

Workers at the Cape Breton SPCA had a similar storm experience. The shelter had two people on site from Friday through Tuesday, sleeping on mattresses.

"A volunteer from the community with a snowmobile had reached out and was able to swap out one of our workers for another one to come in," said Jennifer Murphy, the group's operations coordinator for medical care. "I was able to snowshoe in from the road to swap out the other worker who was here since Friday to get him back home," she said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the SPCA issued a news release saying the shelter was being evacuated due to concerns about heavy snow on the roof.

"Ceilings and beams are starting to bow underneath the weight and there is fear of the roof collapsing," the SPCA said.

To help with the current crisis or support a new Cape Breton building, the SPCA is asking people to visit novascotiaspca.ca/helpnow/.

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