Big, brawny snowstorm hits East Coast
A wide swath of the Maritimes was shut down Monday by a massive, slow-moving blizzard that churned out a swirling mass of snow and ice pellets as it trudged across the region — and then refused to move on.
The heavy snow and powerful wind gusts — at times topping 120 kilometres per hour along the coast near Halifax — arrived in the region late Sunday and kept lashing the area throughout the day.
Scenes of deserted, snowchoked streets were a common sight as most residents heeded the weather warnings and stayed home.
Police in all three provinces urged drivers to stay off the roads amid white-out conditions. Public transit was shut down in several communities, and government offices were closed in Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and southern New Brunswick. Schools were shuttered and air travel ground to a halt.
As the nor’easter picked up strength, Halifax resident Rae Brown was shovelling off her covered porch, trying to stay ahead of a drift leaning on her front door. The sidewalk on Tulip Street was clogged with a metre of snow left behind by a lumbering front-end loader.
“I love it,’’ Brown said with a laugh. “I’m a winter-sexual. I love the snow. I love to ski, sledding, skating. It’s all good.’’
But it wasn’t. The wind was howling along the side street, gusting at more than 80 kilometres per hour. Brown, a teacher, winced as tiny shards of ice and snow hit her face.
“This is definitely a proper winter storm — a blizzard,’’ she said, her parka and knitted mittens caked in snow.
Environment Canada meteorologist Tracey Talbot said the storm was one of the biggest and strongest to hit the Maritimes in years, but she was not aware of any significant damage.
The storm was expected to keep pounding the region overnight, with Cape Breton having to endure more punishment today. The eastern half of Newfoundland and Labrador was expected to feel the storm’s wrath by early today.
“This is definitely one of the most significant storms we’ve had in a long time,’’ Talbot said in an interview. “It’s definitely one of the worst in the Halifax area in years.’’
Snowfall totals across Nova Scotia were expected to range from 20 to 60 centimetres. However, some areas in the Maritimes could be buried under as much as 75 centimetres amid higher drifts.
By late Monday afternoon, the heaviest snow was reported in the Fredericton area, where 68 centimetres had fallen at the airport. The highest unofficial total in Nova Scotia was in the province’s western end at Kejimkujik National Park, where 45 centimetres was on the ground.
By mid-afternoon, the TransCanada Highway was closed between Sackville, N.B., and the Nova Scotia border due to poor visibility.
Storm surges were reported along parts of the Atlantic coast.
On the Halifax waterfront, the harbour heaved upwards in the morning, pushing white-capped waves onto the city’s scenic boardwalk, leaving behind a slushy mess.
Kate Burns and her eightmonth old daughter, Brooke, were trying to get home to Ottawa after a week in New Brunswick, but her scheduled flight Monday morning was cancelled, as was another flight in the afternoon.
“I’m really desperate to get home but I can understand delays with severe weather like this,’’ she said from her mother’s home in Rusagonis, near Fredericton. “It’s wild out there.’’
She said she planned to fly to Montreal on Wednesday, and then drive the rest of the way to Ottawa.