Impending nor'easter forces Maritime airports to cancel flights

Flight cancellations and delays are racking up at airports across the Maritimes this afternoon as officials prepare for an impending nor'easter.

Power companies on alert as high winds and heavy snow increase risk of power outages

This satellite image from Environment Canada, taken at 3 p.m. AT on Tuesday, shows an approaching storm system making its way up the East Coast. (Environment Canada)

Flight cancellations and delays are racking up at airports across the Maritimes this afternoon as heavy, wet snow and high winds forecast for Wednesday have the region's power companies on alert and ready to respond to widespread outages.

Nova Scotia Power said it's stationing power line crews and forestry teams across that province as it activates its emergency operations centre ahead of the storm. NB Power has urged its customers to have a 72-hour emergency kit at the ready in the event of widespread power outages.

As of 10:40 p.m. AT Tuesday, there were more than 56,000 Nova Scotia Power customers throughout the province without electricity. 

At airports in Halifax, Moncton, N.B.Fredericton, Saint John, Charlottetown and Sydney, N.S., some arrivals and departures scheduled for this afternoon and evening were cancelled or delayed throughout Tuesday.

Also of concern is a powerful storm surge along the Atlantic coast that could produce waves of up to seven to 10 metres near high tide Tuesday evening.

Snow is expected to begin falling in southwestern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick early Tuesday afternoon and will spread northeast across the Maritimes, moving to Cape Breton, northern New Brunswick and P.E.I. this evening. 

CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell said the snow will start off light Tuesday but then start falling quickly. East and northeast winds will blow the snow around, making it tough to see if you're out on the roads.

A worker walks on the tarmac at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in January. Airlines have already cancelled flights ahead of an intense winter storm that's expected to bring heavy snow, high winds and pounding surf to Atlantic Canada. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The wet snow is expected to turn to rain later Tuesday night into Wednesday, but could turn back to wet snow Wednesday morning for parts of Nova Scotia, southern New Brunswick and P.E.I. before tapering off to a few flurries, according to Environment Canada. 

The national weather service is calling for total snowfall amounts of 15 to 20 centimetres with up to 30 centimetres possible for the Cape Breton Highlands and as much as 40 centimetres for the eastern half of New Brunswick. But with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark it's hard to pinpoint how much snow will fall before the rain.

Weather warnings

Environment Canada has weather warnings in place for every county in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. as well as most of New Brunswick.

All Nova Scotia counties east of — and including — Colchester, Hants and Halifax, as well as P.E.I.'s Queens and Kings counties, are under wind warnings and winter storm watches.

The eastern half of Nova Scotia and western P.E.I. can expect strong east to northeasterly winds gusting to 90 km/h into Wednesday morning with gusts up to 110 km/h along parts of the Atlantic coast. All of that wind, combined with wet, heavy snow increases the chances of power outages.

Huge waves tower over the iconic lighthouse at Peggy's Cove in January. Waves of up to 10 metres are forecast for parts of Nova Scotia's Atlantic Coast Tuesday and Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Almost all of New Brunswick, P.E.I. Prince County, Nova Scotia's Cumberland County and all counties in Southwest Nova Scotia and the Annapolis Valley are under winter storm warnings. Environment Canada issues the warnings "when multiple types of severe winter weather are expected to occur together."

Risk of storm surge

In addition to the wet snow and wind, Shelburne, Queens and Lunenburg counties are under a storm surge warning with higher than normal water levels and heavy, pounding surf Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. 

"The combination of very strong easterly winds and low pressure will produce waves of possibly seven to 10 metres near high tide this evening," said Environment Canada's warning.

A pedestrian walks through a snowstorm in Halifax last Thursday. A third winter storm in five days is expected to bring gusting winds and snow to the Maritimes. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

"The largest threat is for east to southeast facing shorelines exposed to these waves, especially for Shelburne and Queens counties."

The risk won't go down with the tide, either. The weather service said the "high waves will be persistent" along parts of the coast that face east and southeast, and could continue for several hours after high tide.

The second of three nor'easters in five days left this road impassable in East Gore, N.S. on Saturday. (Melissa Friedman/CBC)

The rest of Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, stretching from Halifax to Cape Breton, is also in for some rough seas with waves of up to six to eight metres near high tide on Wednesday.

"There is a risk of localized flooding during these high tides as well as coastal erosion and infrastructure damage due to heavy pounding surf, especially as some of these same coastal areas were already affected by similar conditions last week," said Environment Canada.

Storm kindness

A Stewiacke, N.S. family is offering up their home to drivers who end up in a ditch near their house due to road conditions.

Rae-Lee Verboom, who says she has lived on Wittenburg Road for nine years, said drivers go off the road every winter.

"Our house is the last house before the hill, so they will end up sliding down the hill and coming into our yard and either calling someone to help them out, or my husband has driven them home and they'll come back for their vehicles," Verboom said.

Verboom posts the offer on social media when there's a storm. She said someone is always at home, hot chocolate and coffee are available as well as phone chargers.

Over the years, Verboom estimates her family has helped 10 to 12 people.

​"I want my kids to follow my example. I feel good knowing that someone's home and there's not someone worrying about them."

With files from Kalin Mitchell and Marina von Stackelburg