Nova Scotia

Lightning storm strands Halifax airline passengers

Hundreds of passengers are forced to sit in planes for hours when a lightning storm rocks Nova Scotia.

Hundreds of passengers were forced to sit in airplanes for hours when a lightning storm rocked Halifax and other parts of Nova Scotia.

Halifax Stanfield International Airport declared a red alert Tuesday night, which kept workers inside and prevented them from unloading planes for about six hours.

Ashley Gallant, spokeswoman for the airport authority, said 25 planes that landed had to wait on the tarmac before it was safe to proceed to the gate.

Stranded passengers at the Halifax airport spent the night sleeping wherever they could. (CBC)

Passengers were finally able to disembark starting at 1 a.m. But some flights were delayed by then, forcing many travellers to spend the night on benches in the airport.

"The worst part of it all was actually just sitting there," said Michael Tucker, whose plane arrived in Halifax just before 9 p.m. Tuesday. "The pilot himself even said that in 22 years he's never seen a storm like this."

Tucker said he wouldn't get home to Newfoundland until later Wednesday.

Other passengers told CBC News they had no dry clothes because their luggage sat on the rain-soaked tarmac.

Bonnie McKay, from Goose Bay, N.L., and her family of five arrived at the airport Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

"Our flight was delayed so many times," she said. "We had to spend the night sitting up with nowhere to lay down. Our luggage was left out in the rain so we all have wet clothes. So we've had pretty much a horrible trip."

At one point, the power went out in the building.

"We just want to be done with this airport," said McKay, who spent $8,000 on plane tickets for the trip to B.C. "I'm so mad right now."

Lightning lights up a bridge over Halifax harbour. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

The storm wreaked havoc around mainland Nova Scotia. More than 14,000 homes and businesses lost power at the height of the storm Tuesday night. There were several crashes on rain-slicked roads.

At the airport, more than 64 millimetres of rain fell. Runway lights were damaged by lightning, but they have since been fixed.

Flights were moving again Wednesday morning, though several were cancelled. Airport officials said it would likely take a day to clear the backlog.

Gallant said a red alert is called whenever lightning is detected in the area.

The airport also declared a red alert on June 2, when the runway was struck by lightning and six safety systems failed during a three-hour storm.