Nova Scotia

Heavy, wet snow wreaks havoc on N.S. roads, cancels flights

Heavy, wet snow that blanketed much of Nova Scotia earlier Thursday continues to cause slippery conditions on roads, reducing visibility on many major highways.

'Even with snow tires, it was a nail-biting commute,' says Fall River resident Hermen Vonkeman

Traffic in Highway 102 heading into Halifax was inching along for hours Thursday evening. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

Heavy, wet snow that blanketed much of Nova Scotia earlier Thursday continues to cause slippery conditions on roads, reducing visibility on many major highways.

Outbound traffic on Highway 102 remained at a standstill shortly before 9 p.m. AT with many vehicles, including tractor-trailers, off the road. Inbound traffic was moving slightly faster, but there was a great deal of snow and slush slowing vehicles down.

It took Fall River resident Hermen Vonkeman two hours and 45 minutes to travel from downtown Halifax to his home Thursday evening. Usually, the 30-kilometre route would take him 30 to 40 minutes.

Close to the city, he said the traffic was moving slowly, but conditions deteriorated once he hit Highway 118. There were numerous vehicles in the ditch. On the hilly roads around Fall River, he said some people were abandoning their vehicles on the side of the road.

Vonkeman suspected that a lot of vehicles didn't have snow tires because many couldn't get traction to get moving after they had to stop. He said it's time to consider making snow tires mandatory in Nova Scotia.

"Even with snow tires, it was a nail-biting commute to say the least. It doesn't matter what you were driving, tonight would've been a challenge," Vonkeman said. "Even if the snow plows were out on the roads, it's impossible for them to actually remove snow when vehicles are moving at five to six kilometres an hour."

Salt trucks were out on highways, according to the provincial Transportation Department, which urged drivers to slow down. But there were complaints about a lack of plows on those roads.

The poor weather was snarling traffic on Highway 111 in Dartmouth, N.S., by mid-afternoon Thursday. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Ryan Pineau was travelling with his wife and their three-year-old from P.E.I. to Halifax. They started driving through heavy rain around the Cobequid Pass around 5:30 p.m. and hit slush near Stewiacke.

The family spent nearly four hours at a standstill near Enfield.

"We just came upon a wall of traffic, probably four kilometres out from Exit 7," he said. "Absolute wall-to-wall traffic, in front of me and behind me." 

The family tried to make do snacking on leftover Halloween candy and watching Netflix as they idled. 

"I also got to see a couple of snowmen that people must have got out of their cars and made, which brings a little bit of happiness to the situation," he said. 

Pineau said he finally made it past the Enfield exit shortly after 10 p.m. By that point, he'd counted 14 vehicles in the ditch.

Halifax Stanfield Airport closed its runways late Thursday afternoon due to the weather, saying up to 20 centimetres of wet, heavy snow had fallen in about five hours. They remained closed for about seven hours, reopening around 11 p.m.

There were still numerous delays and cancellations, so travellers were advised to check with their airline.

In a tweet, airport management said a bus was stuck on a ramp at Exit 6, blocking traffic trying to enter the airport from Halifax.

A motorcyclist struggles to get through traffic in the slushy snow Thursday afternoon. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

In Halifax, the snow had turned to rain in parts of the municipality by 4:30 p.m. The heavy mix on the roadways slowed down rush hour traffic to a standstill.

Halifax Regional Police were called to 15 motor vehicle accidents before 7 p.m., but there were no serious injuries.

RCMP asked drivers to slow down and exercise caution.

Environment Canada has released a special weather statement about Thursday's snowfall, which could reach up to 10 centimetres in inland areas and over higher terrain. Snow is expected to turn to rain along the coast with 20 to 40 millimetres expected.

In Cape Breton, the rain is expected to develop into flurries by Friday. On Saturday, snowfall amounts of five to 10 centimetres are expected on the island.

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said Halifax was expected to see between five to 10 centimetres of snow accumulate before it tapered to rain. 

Friday's forecast calls for more rain and flurries across Nova Scotia, with sun and cloud on the weekend.

Environment Canada is calling for periods of snow on Monday.

As the snow fell, the number of power outages rose. By 11:15 p.m., just over 12,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity, most of them in the Sackville area.

"There's a lot of heavy, wet snow out there and that's causing some branches to come in contact with our lines, so we've got lots of crews out tending to the outages," said spokesperson Andrea Anderson.

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With files from Ryan Snoddon and Elizabeth McMillan

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