Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland bracing for 'hazardous' onslaught of snow, wind, ice and rain

A mixed system is menacing the whole island Friday, with nearly every region affected by a weather warning of one type or another.

Everything from high waves to ice pellets to batter island Friday

A mix of freezing rain, snow and rain is expected for Newfoundland, with heavy snowfall and a winter storm warning for the west coast. (Nova Scotia Power/Twitter)

A mixed weather system is menacing the whole island today, with nearly every region affected by a weather warning of one type or another.

The provincial government is warning people to prepare to hunker down, potentially without power, for at least 72 hours, as a combination of snow, freezing rain and high winds could cause ice buildup and outages.

That risk is widespread, with special weather statements upgraded Friday to warnings for most of the island. Those vary significantly by region.

Most notably, Corner Brook and the west coast is under a winter storm warning that could bury the city under 25 to 40 centimetres of snow.

For up-to-date school and business closure reports, visit CBC's Storm Centre

The Burin peninsula looks to be hit hardest by freezing rain, with the weather agency warning of "significant" ice buildup and 15 to 25 millimetres on the ground.

High winds will also whip through the island today, reaching 110 km/h along the south coast with possible 130 km/h gusts.

Storm surges with waves up to 10 metres are also possible for that region.

West coast storm

A winter storm warning stretching from Corner Brook to the tip of the Northern Peninsula — and even grazing the south coast of Labrador — will dump up to 45 centimetres on some areas of the western part of the island.

"There's nobody getting spared," said meteorologist Rodney Barney.

A wide swath of the west coast and a little bit of Labrador is under a winter storm warning Friday. (Donnie O'Keefe/Twitter)

Falling flakes will start off light, he said, with accumulation picking up — along with wind — as the day wears on.

"It's a lot of snow," Barney said, with the highest amounts hitting the Gros Morne area. Luckily, he added, "it is spread out over a long duration."

 Central Newfoundland will see snow and then ice pellets, with temperatures rising overnight.

Ice on the Avalon

Southeastern Newfoundland will tend to see less snow accumulation than the west coast, but other threats lurk in the forecast — namely, hours of icy rainfall that will begin to pelt the region by mid-morning.

In the wake of the Jan. 17 blizzard that left thousands of people in eastern Newfoundland trapped inside and in the dark, St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said the city is ready for the freezing rain with an emergency preparedness plan, and a co-ordinator is "working with the various agencies involved to determine what may be necessary" to deal with whatever comes.

The metro region is staring down eight hours of ice pellets, beginning mid-morning, and then four hours of freezing rain in the evening, according to Environment Canada, which said the potential for ice buildup in some areas may lead to "extremely hazardous" conditions.

RCMP Const. Kurt Russell said highway conditions were slushy when he started his early-morning shift. "That can throw your vehicle off track really quickly," he said.

"The biggest thing is, give yourself lots of time. Slow down. Drive to the conditions of the road. Just because the speed limit says 100 — that's for perfect conditions."

For those already thinking about shoveling, earlier is better, Barney said. "It's going to be a challenging day for snow removal because those ice pellets, they can be pretty heavy once they start packing down on top of the snow," said Barney. 

"If you're about to get out and do any snow clearing this morning before that changeover occurs, it might ease the workload for a little bit later."

Fortunately, he said, temperatures on the Avalon will climb to about 10 C later Friday evening, meaning any ice accumulation should dissipate — but as the thermometer drops Saturday, anything that melts will freeze over.

As of 7 a.m., all schools in metro St. John's are open, but morning closures dominate elsewhere on the island. Most flights at St. John's International Airport are on time, with exception of those to or from Halifax.

Be prepared

The incoming threat prompted Newfoundland Power to publish tips on preparing for potential power failures.

"We go through a whole bunch of things in preparation for this kind of weather, making sure that all of our generation is available to supply customers, which it is," said Newfoundland and Labrador communications manager Erin Squires.

"We've actually flown over our transmission lines to make sure there's no sort of significant visible issue, which there's not."   

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