Nova Scotia

Maritime storm cripples East Coast with snow, wind

The remnants of a spring blizzard that closed most schools and government offices in the region continues to paralyze the three Maritime provinces with winds gusting to more than 100 km/h.

Flights cancelled throughout the region due to whiteout conditions

A spring blizzard closed schools and government offices in the Maritimes, with winds reaching more than 100 km/h 4:52

The remnants of a spring blizzard that closed most schools and government offices in the region continues to paralyze the three Maritime provinces with winds gusting to more than 100 km/h.

Travel in and out of Nova Scotia all but ground to a halt as nearly all flights at Halifax Stanfield International Airport were cancelled.

All seven provincial ferries were tied up due to the weather and a large section of the Trans-Canada Highway between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was closed due to whiteout conditions.

"Through much of the first part of the storm, the Maritimes faced very strong north and northeast winds. Moving through tonight, behind the nor'easter, those winds will shift to become north and northwest," said CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell.

"While the direction of those winds will change, they will — in most cases — retain their fierce strength."

Mitchell said those winds are forecast to gust to more than 100 kilometres an hour for large parts of the Maritimes moving into Thursday morning. It may be late on Thursday before the wind gusts drop below 60 km/h for much of the region, he said.

As winds picked up through the day on Wednesday, more and more power outages were reported.

At the height of the outages in Nova Scotia, more than 17,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity. That number has since shrunk, but the utility is reporting it could take until 11:30 a.m. on Thursday to restore power to all its customers.

Outages were also reported in New Brunswick, mainly in the St. Stephen area. In P.E.I., Maritime Electric was dealing with outages across the island when the weather turned so foul that the utility pulled its crews off the road.

Long list of cancellations

Preparations for the storm began early, with airports in the region cancelling dozens of flights on Tuesday in anticipation of whiteout conditions forecast by meteorologists.

On the CBC app? Click here to see the storm gif.

Nearly all other forms of transportation were also affected. Metro Transit, the public transit service in Halifax, pulled its buses off the road by late morning.

Marine Atlantic cancelled all of its ferry crossings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for Wednesday and Thursday due to high winds and sea conditions while Maritime Bus  the region's interprovincial bus service  cancelled all of its runs for Wednesday.

By 8 p.m. AT, the Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and P.E.I. was closed to all traffic.

Transportation officials in all three Maritime provinces urged drivers to stay off the roads if possible.

Even Canada Post said it woudn't be delivering mail in the Halifax region on Wednesday. The postal service said it will try again on Thursday.

The long list of cancellations across the province was a relief for Sean Irvine, the director of operations for Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office.

"They understand that this is probably going to be potentially the biggest storm of the year … and they know they need to take it seriously. The last, past experiences have showed us we do have to take these warnings seriously, so we're pretty satisfied," he said.

"Stay home. Keep yourself warm and safe, and be prepared for the worst and hope for the best."

Irvine said he had not heard of any reports of major damage.

"We do know that most people have taken our advice and have stayed off the road and most businesses are closed down and people are staying at home, which is good news," he said.

Wind gusts reach 161 km/h

The storm started just before 7 a.m. in southwestern Nova Scotia and spread across the province. Heavy snow mixed with strong winds​.

On Brier Island, off Nova Scotia's western edge, a peak gust hit 133 km/h early in the afternoon, Environment Canada said. In Grand Etang, on the notoriously windy west side of Cape Breton, a gust from the east reached 161 km/h at 4 p.m.

"There are still many impacts from the weather left to come with this storm," Mitchell said Wednesday night.

"Continuing through this evening, blizzard conditions are still very likely in much of the south of New Brunswick across Prince Edward Island and inland areas of Nova Scotia.

"Even along the coastline of Nova Scotia, which saw an early evening easing of the snow, isolated bursts of heavier snow are likely."

Boats remain in harbour

Fishermen near Sambro heard the warnings and headed into port Tuesday ahead of the storm.

The crew of the halibut boat On a Mission weren't taking any chances.

Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.- Sean Irvine,  EMO Nova Scotia

Tyler Henneberry said they used five lines to tie the vessel up instead of the usual three.

"You've got to make sure your boat is secured to the wharf," he said. "We came in a couple of days ago, because it was getting real bad, so we're just playing it safe."

The area was hit hard by Hurricane Juan in 2003, and it's something the fishermen won't soon forget. This time they've filled their boats' fuel tanks to add extra weight.

"Most of the time, in a storm like this, we'd be out, but this is one of the times we're in,” said crew member Wes Henneberry.

“We have some extra chains that we put on the boat because of the storm surge that's going to come up here really high. Here where we're standing will probably be under water by midday."

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      With files from The Canadian Press


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