'Tricky' nor'easter closes schools, makes for slick driving conditions

A messy wintry mix of freezing rain, snow and ice pellets descended on Nova Scotia Thursday as another nor'easter bore down on the Maritimes, closing dozens of schools.

As much as 15 to 20 centimetres of snow were expected in parts of the province Thursday

At around noon on Thursday, Halifax roads were covered with a mix of freezing rain and snow. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A messy wintry mix of freezing rain, snow and ice pellets descended on Nova Scotia Thursday as another nor'easter bore down on the Maritimes, closing dozens of schools.

Freezing rain started in southwest Nova Scotia Thursday morning, with light snow in the Annapolis Valley. By afternoon, wet snow and freezing rain blanketed the Halifax area.

Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the second of two low pressure centres associated with a storm brought a mix of precipitation that could make for a slippery drive Thursday evening.

"It could be that wet, sticky snow around that commute time," he said.

Infrared data shows the first low pressure centre licking the edges of Newfoundland with the second over Nova Scotia at 12:15 p.m. AT on Thursday. (Environment Canada)

The first low pressure centre just missed the province overnight on Wednesday.

"This has been a very tricky system to forecast, and earlier in the week, it looked like the snow was going to arrive earlier," said Hubbard. 

"Now we're getting into the second centre with this system and it's going to be bringing in the majority of the precipitation, which is what we've been expecting for the past couple of days."

10 to 20 cms of snow forecasted

Environment Canada had snowfall warnings in place for Cumberland, Colchester, Hants, Kings and Pictou Counties. The national weather service forecasted between 15 and 20 centimetres of snow for those areas and warned that strong northeasterly winds could blow the snow around.

There was also a Les Suêtes wind warning in place for Inverness County.

The rest of the province remained under a special weather statement Thursday, with as much as 10 centimetres of snow expected before mixing with rain over southern and eastern parts of the province. According to Environment Canada, ice pellets were also expected over many areas.

Plow crews were trying to keep up with the accumulation of ice and snow in the Halifax region Thursday afternoon. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The heaviest snow or more intense snow-mixing was expected to happen by afternoon.

"For the northwestern part of the province, where we have those snowfall warnings, basically once it starts, pretty much the rest of the afternoon into the early evening will be kind of the worst conditions," he said.

The storm continued to track northwest to Cape Breton and the eastern part of the province, with a mix of ice pellets in the afternoon before changing over to rain and ice-pellet mix by late afternoon.

Ariel Blanchard says she started out riding home Thursday afternoon, but gave up saying it was too dangerous. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Schools closed, but not in Halifax

Several schools were closed Thursday and snowfall warnings were in place for parts of the Annapolis Valley, as well as central and northern Nova Scotia.

The following schools were cancelled Thursday:

  • All schools in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board
  • All schools and worksites in the Tri-County Regional School Board
  • All schools in the South Shore Regional School Board
  • All schools in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board 
  • All schools in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board
  • All schools in the Strait Regional School Board
  • Several NSCC campuses across the province
  • Cape Breton University
  • Acadia University (classes starting after 3 p.m. are cancelled but university remains open)
  • CSAP schools in the southwest and northeast regions
  • Centre scolaire de la Rive-Sud
  • École Rose-des-Vents
  • École acadienne de Truro

Nova Scotia Power said the forecast of heavy, wet snow with the possibility of freezing rain and high winds could knock out power, though by late afternoon, the utility was reporting just pockets of outages.

Crews from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were on hand to assist.

"We know everyone's patience is wearing thin — we are all ready for spring to really arrive," one of the utility's vice-presidents, Paul Casey, said in a statement.

"We are doing everything we can to reduce storm impacts on our customers as we face the reality of more frequent and powerful storms."