Cape Breton buried under one of worst storms in recent memory
Most of Cape Breton shut down Tuesday as area residents spent the day digging out from one of the biggest winter storms in recent memory.
“I’ve seen some storms and I’ve seen worse, but this is one of the biggest that I’ve seen in a long time,” said 80-year-old Sydney resident James Rodgers, who was fortunate to have neighbour David MacKinnon come by with two shovels and a snowblower to clear a path to his door through a bank of snow that stood some two metres high.
According to Environment Canada, the huge low-pressure system that covered Atlantic Canada since Monday afternoon dumped some 45.7 cm of snow in the Sydney area, while an accumulation of 51 cm was recorded at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport. The heavy snowfall combined with very strong winds to leave many locations covered in waist-high drifts — and that was before area residents had to deal with the even higher walls of snow left in the wake of the busy snowplows tasked to clear the streets and roads.
“There’s nowhere left to put it — there’s too much and I can’t throw up high enough on the snowbank so I have to walk with it before I can dump it,” said Regina Gillis, a longtime Whitney Pier resident who gratefully welcomed the assistance of neighbour Patrick Ianetti as the pair cleared her driveway on Victoria Road.
Although the wintry conditions made walking difficult, that wasn’t enough to keep amateur weatherman and Internet celebrity Frankie MacDonald from hitting the streets to digitally record the aftermath of the storm.
“This storm means that everybody had to stay indoors — I’ve been out walking and taking pictures and I’m going to post them on Facebook,” said the autistic Whitney Pier resident, who just last week received a major award for having more than 100,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel where he uploads his weather forecasts.
With the storm leaving major roads snow-covered and most side streets impassable, the Cape Breton Regional Police Service took to social media at around noon on Tuesday with a request to stay home unless absolutely necessary. On its Twitter account, the CBRPS posted: “Emergency vehicles and snowplows are the only things we want to see driving now — roads are still not safe and crews need room to clean up.”
Fleets of provincial and municipal snow removal machines were joined by hundreds of private plows, mostly pickup trucks with mounted blades, as they worked throughout the day to clear streets, highways, driveways and parking lots.
Nova Scotia Power Inc. crews were dealing with more than 40 separate outages in Cape Breton affecting nearly 1,200 homes stretching along the Cabot Trail from Pleasant Bay to Ingonish. A handful of customers in Sydney, New Waterford, the Hornes Road area and Boisdale were also without electricity Tuesday night.
Most businesses in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality were closed Tuesday, with a few service stations, coffee shops and other selected stores being the only commercial enterprises to open.
The Tim Hortons on George Street in Sydney experienced lengthy delays as the few staff that made it in catered to those who ventured out in the snowy conditions. Other businesses, including the Prince Street Sobeys store, planned for late afternoon openings to give workers time to find their way to the store.
In Sydney River, Dave MacKillop opened his family-operated flower shop after his parking lot was finally cleared around 2 p.m.
“We’re only open for a couple of hours, but it is Valentine’s Day and we had lots of orders, so it was good that some people were able to come in,” he said. “But with the storm hitting us so hard, I suppose we can say that Valentine’s Day is postponed for a day.”
Kidding aside, MacKillop admitted that the storm was not good for business on a day that florists have come to rely on following typically slow Januarys.
Provincewide school closures were among Tuesday’s many cancellations and postponements, while transit operations, public services and many privately owned businesses were also shut down for the day.
Although the snow eventually stopped, the reprieve will be short-lived as another weather system is already on
“Emergency vehicles and snowplows are the only things we want to see driving now — roads are still not safe and crews need room to clean up.” CBRPS twitter account
the province’s doorstep. The new low-pressure system is expected to intensify southwest of Nova Scotia tonight before tracking across the province on Thursday.
More high winds are forecast, but snowfall accumulations are predicted to be less than the week’s first storm with the forecast calling for 10-15 cm of snow in Cape Breton.
Patrick Iannetti, left, helped neighbour Regina Gillis shovel the latter’s Victoria Road driveway on Tuesday afternoon following the Valentine’s Day Eve storm that covered the area with more than 50 cm of snow. Combined with high winds, the snowfall virtually closed down Cape Breton, leaving island residents to spend the better part of Tuesday clearing the snow.
Snowplows of all sizes were busy clearing Cape Breton roads Tuesday following the storm that dropped more than 50 cm of snow over the area. Above, three plows form a convoy as they work their way down Victoria Road in Sydney’s Whitney Pier area.
Tyson MacPhee’s motorized three-wheeler was one vehicle that didn’t need to be shovelled out of the driveway Tuesday after a record-breaking snowfall in Cape Breton. MacPhee was caught in action Tuesday on Sydney’s George Street.
Sydney Forks resident John Michael Hanna spent a stormy Monday night in Sydney only to awake to find his car Tuesday encased in a mound of snow after a storm dumped some 50 cm of the white stuff in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Sydney residents Dan Webb, foreground, and Geri Morrison dig their way out Tuesday after a record-breaking snowstorm pounded Cape Breton overnight Monday. Their work was monitored by Norman, a four-legged supervisor.
RIGHT: Mark Hatt blasts through heavy snow along Kings Road, Sydney, on Tuesday morning. After clearing his driveway he took care of the sidewalk in front of his home.