Atlantic Canadians are being urged to stay inside and off the roads as blowing snow and frigid temperatures lash the region.
When is a winter storm a blizzard?
Environment Canada has specific criteria for labelling a winter storm a blizzard. A blizzard must include all of the following:
- Winds greater than 40 km/h.
- Visibility of 400 metres or less due to falling/blowing snow.
- Storm lasting at least four hours.
Conditions are slowly improving in the Maritimes as the low pressure system moves off toward Newfoundland.
Blizzard, winter storm and wind chill warnings were in effect across Newfoundland Friday night.
Extreme wind chill warnings for the northwestern parts of Newfoundland and parts of Labrador persisted overnight Friday with wind chill values as low as –45 to –50 in places.
Southeast Newfoundland remained under blizzard and blowing snow warnings Friday night. Total snowfall amounts were expected to range from 15 centimetres over the Terra Nova area and Connaigre Peninsula to as much as 35 centimetres on parts of the Avalon Peninsula.
In Nova Scotia, blizzard warnings persisted Friday night in the eastern part of the province, while the blizzard warnings were lifted for the Halifax region and the western half of the province. However, Environment Canada issued special weather alerts.
"After experiencing several days of record cold temperatures followed by blizzard conditions in many areas, Nova Scotia is in for a significant warming trend beginning on Sunday. Culminating in a mild and rainy day with strong southeasterly winds on Monday. Long range guidance also show temperatures may fall back well below freezing again on Tuesday," the statement read.
The special weather statement for Nova Scotia extended to both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, with blowing snow warnings in effect for P.E.I.
Across northern New Brunswick, extreme wind chill warnings remained in effect Friday night, giving wind chills as low as –30 in parts of the province.
Police, buses pulled off roads
The Halifax watch commander ordered all officers off the road unless it was a code 1 emergency Friday. Buses in Halifax were parked Friday afternoon but expected to resume at 5 a.m. Saturday.
The navy base in Halifax and 12-Wing Shearwater have closed for everyone except essential personnel.
With buses off the road, the Nova Scotia Jeep Club was called in to help make sure people could get to and from the hospital. It’s only the third time since White Juan, the 2004 storm, that fleet has been called in for duty.
Police are asking drivers to stay off the road because swirling snow is creating poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. A section of Route 2 near Summerside was closed and poor conditions forced the closure of N.S Highway 104 Friday evening.
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In terms of snowfall, the Nova Scotia communities of Shelburne and Yarmouth received more than 19 centimetres, with much of the rest of the province receiving about 20 centimetres. The North Shore and northern Cape Breton received the least amount of snow, with between five and 10 centimetres.
P.E.I. and New Brunswick also received between five and 10 centimetres of snow.
“We’ve dealt with snowfall amounts like this already this year," said CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell, "but what we haven't dealt with is these types of snowfall amounts in this type of cold air and with the gusty winds that we’re going to be seeing.
"More than the snow, the blowing snow creating prolonged and lasting whiteout conditions is the primary hazard — combined with the still very cold wind chills across the Maritimes. There are also reports of higher than normal water levels and some localized coastal flooding along the southwest coast of Nova Scotia where storm surge warnings have been posted," said Mitchell.
Halifax's winter parking ban has been extended into Saturday, with street parking restrictions in place between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Most flights along the eastern seaboard delayed or cancelled
Police in many areas are warning drivers to prepare for hazardous driving conditions and are reminding drivers it's an offence to drive with windows obscured by ice and snow.
Classes haven’t resumed yet, but a handful of universities closed their campuses on Friday. For a list of cancellations, click here.
There have been few reported power outages in Nova Scotia, but there have been rolling blackouts in parts of P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Maritime Electric initiated an emergency power outage on the Island Thursday, cutting power to some business customers in order to prevent a blackout.
The grids shut down when they reached peak loads. Newfoundland Power has asked its customers to conserve energy.