Nfld. & Labrador

Whiteout conditions hit Newfoundland's west coast as wind and snow batter island, coastal Labrador

Much of Newfoundland and parts of Labrador are under wind and blizzard warnings heading into Wednesday night.

Blizzard warnings remain for western N.L. into Wednesday night, Marine Atlantic issues Thursday advisories

There were whiteout conditions heading to Clarenville, N.L., Wednesday. (Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC)

Much of Newfoundland and parts of Labrador remain under wind and blizzard warnings from Environment Canada.

In the St. John's area, winds were between 100 and 120 km/h Wednesday, with the coast of Labrador getting the same blast.

Wind and snow squall warnings remain in effect for St. John's and the rest of the Avalon Peninsula, as well as for much of Newfoundland's southern coast, from the Burin Peninsula to Burgeo, and parts of the northern coast and central Newfoundland.

Nain and the area can expect gusts up to 100 km/h, increasing into the night, with gusts hitting 120 km/h. There are also blowing snow advisories for Nain, Hopedale and the area from Red Bay to L'Anse au Clair.

On Newfoundland's west coast, residents will also have snow to deal with, as blizzard warnings remain in effect for Bay St. George, Channel-Port aux Basques, Corner Brook, Gros Morne, Parson's Pond-Hawke's Bay, Port Saunders and the Straits, and the surrounding areas.

A blowing snow advisory has also been issued for the eastern area of the Northern Peninsula

The weather is wreaking havoc on air travellers' schedules as well, with flight delays and cancellations reported at airports in St. John's, Deer Lake, Gander and Goose Bay.

Wind is wreaking havoc in the Newfoundland town of Port aux Basques, ripping roofing and siding off buildings. (Submitted by Terry Osmond)
Wind knocked over this trailer by Coleman's Grocery in Port aux Basques on Monday night. (Submitted by Terry Osmond)

Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer said the winds started Christmas Day and were loud enough to wake him up.

"I was woken, like, 1:30 in the morning and the wind was just whistling from the west," he said. "Around 1:30 in the morning she was peaking around 160 [km/h]."

As long as the power's on, the Christmas mood is still there.- Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer

The effect of the wind is being felt everywhere in town, said the mayor. Home Hardware lost its roof and a tractor-trailer blew onto its side.

"There's a cargo trailer just down from where I live, in Grand Bay, in the bay. It just blew up from someone's back yard into the bay and it's on the other side."

Corner Brook is being hit by a blizzard Wednesday that is reducing visibility to zero, and winds that are dropping the temperature to between -15 and -20 C. Conditions are expected to improve tonight as winds ease up. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

But it's not dampening the Christmas spirit, he said.

"You should drive along the coast and see those hungry-looking, or ugly-looking seas out there, nope, it doesn't slow it down. As long as the power's on, the Christmas mood is still there."

Spencer said the damage has been limited to some roofing, siding and car windows blowing out.

Port aux Basques is under a blizzard warning, with winds of to 110 km/h combined with snow and wind chill down to -20 C. Conditions are expected to improve Wednesday night. (Submitted by Terry Osmond)

"People are hunkered down, they take their time. The streets are clean. There's not a lot of snow fallen, which is good, and so no, no major damage."

In Corner Brook, flurries and strong winds are making for poor driving conditions, with near-zero visibility in areas, expected to continue until tonight.

The blizzard's high winds have pulled siding from the Shark Cove Restaurant in Port aux Basques. (Submitted by Terry Osmond)

Ferry crossings cancelled

Marine Atlantic cancelled its Wednesday departures in both directions from Port aux Basques and North Sydney, N.S. 

"We're looking for a break in the weather, but the winds just continue to howl on the west coast," Marine Atlantic's Darrell Mercer told the St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

The winds, which began Christmas Day evening in some areas, are expected to die down tonight through Thursday morning in most areas, but Marine Atlantic has issued a warning to passengers travelling Thursday, as weather may still affect the crossings.

Darrell Mercer is a spokesperson for Marine Atlantic. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Mercer said Marine Atlantic managed to sail Christmas Eve, which cleared up the majority of the pre-Christmas backlog, and there aren't many passengers or commercial trucks waiting to cross at this point. Still, numbers are expected to rise come the new year.

"We're going to have stores that want to get some products onto their store shelves just in time for New Year's, plus all the people that travelled for Christmas, they're going to be wanting to return in the opposite direction," he said.  

Waves are up to eight metres in the Cabot Strait with wind gusts over 100 km/h, said Mercer, which "are not ideal sailing conditions from a safety and passenger comfort perspective."

They're hoping the seas will drop down by Thursday, Mercer added.

He also said that if there is a break in weather and the backlog demands it, there's a third Marine Atlantic ferry to help get passengers and transport trucks across.

The Postville-Makkovik area, under a winter storm warning, can expect 30 to 40 centimetres of snow by the evening before conditions improve.

The Marine Atlantic ferry Highlanders sits in the harbour at Port aux Basques, N.L., on Wednesday. Marine Atlantic has cancelled all Dec. 27 crossings to North Sydney, N.S., due to poor weather conditions. (Submitted by Terry Osmond)

Provincial ferry services have also been affected by the weather, with several ferries out of service, including the Bell Island-Portugal Cove crossings and the Fogo Island-Change Islands-Farewell route.