Snowstorm brings parts of East Coast to standstill
A wide swath of the Maritimes was shut down Monday by a massive, slowmoving 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, snow-choked 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 whiteout 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.
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 on Tuesday. The eastern half of Newfoundland and Labrador was expected to feel the storm’s wrath by early Tuesday.
“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 Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Sackville, N.B., and the Nova Scotia border due to poor visibility. Halifax resident Paul Giroux said the blizzard rated a seven or eight on a scale of 1 to 10. He said a snowstorm on Feb. 19, 2004, known as White Juan, was far worse. That storm hurled gusts in excess of 124 kilometres per hour and buried the region under almost a metre of snow.
“It was worse than this,” he said, looking over his ice-encrusted glasses. “It’s a lot of blowing and stuff . ... We’ve lived through worse.”
Giroux said he has lived in the Dartmouth area for more than 70 years.
Nova Scotia Power, the province’s utility, said the storm had knocked out power to about 13,000 customers in the morning, and that number held steady until late in the afternoon. Most of the outages were reported along the Atlantic Coast, where the gusts were the strongest.
The blizzard moved into southern New Brunswick around 10 p.m. Sunday night. Transit buses were pulled from the roads in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.
By Monday afternoon, about 1,800 NB Power customers were in the dark, most of them along the Acadian Peninsula and the province’s southwest coast.
In Saint John, N.B., city officials asked parents to keep children from playing in the streets and tunnelling in snowbanks while the snowplows were still at work.
A skier crosses Barrington Street in downtown Halifax as a major winter storm blasts the Maritimes Monday. The storm was expected to continue through the night and into Tuesday.