Nova Scotia not out of the dark yet as powerful storm continues

Tens of thousands of Nova Scotia Power customers are without electricity as a winter storm works its way through the north of the province, while the risk of storm surges loom in the coastal areas of northern and eastern Nova Scotia.

High water levels, heavy pounding surf will create coastal flooding, warns Environment Canada

Traffic backs up on Hammonds Plains Road in Halifax Thursday morning. A winter storm has knocked out power to thousands of Nova Scotians and led to numerous school cancellations. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

About 16,500 Nova Scotia Power customers are without electricity as a winter storm works its way through the north of the province, while the risk of storm surges loom in the coastal areas of northern and eastern Nova Scotia.

At its peak, 249,000 customers were without power Thursday, many of them in the Halifax area. Those outages have largely been restored.

Thousands of customers are still affected, with the bulk of outages in central and northern Nova Scotia and into Cape Breton.

Storm surge warning

Environment Canada is warning of storm surges in the coastal areas of northern and eastern Nova Scotia, including coastal areas of Cape Breton and the Bras d'Or Lake.

"For north-facing coastlines, these high water levels combined with heavy pounding surf will continue to give coastal flooding until the tides recede later tonight," it said.

"Surge and waves can cause impacts well inland. Stay away from affected shorelines. People close to the shoreline should stay on the lookout for worsening conditions."

Environment Canada forecasted the storm would bring up to 25 centimetres of snow in northern and northeastern Nova Scotia, with lesser amounts expected for the north-facing coasts. Winds of up to 100 km/h are also expected.

Cause of power outages

Nova Scotia Power said transmission interruptions in Memramcook, N.B., have shut down the power link between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which knocked out power for 100,000 customers in Nova Scotia.

At the same time, the utility is also dealing with outages caused by separate transmission interruptions near Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

Nova Scotia Power spokesperson Tiffany Chase said the outages are largely being caused by wet, heavy snow that's pushing trees onto power lines in the northeastern parts of the province. She said crews are deployed across the province.

However, Chase said the outages in metro Halifax stem from the transmission issues, rather than local weather conditions. She said most power is generated in Cape Breton and transmitted to other parts of the province.

"We are also doing what we can to reroute power from other locations to those customers in metro to get as many back on as quickly as possible," said Chase.

As of 8:36 p.m., Nova Scotia Power was reporting close to 540 outages.

Customers can get the latest updates on estimated restoration times on the online outage map at outagemap.nspower.ca or by calling 1-877-428-6004.

School closures

Many schools in the province were closed Thursday. The Halifax Regional Centre for Education said all of its schools dismissed students early.

Many other schools across the province cancelled classes this morning due to weather or also dismissed early due to power outages.

No power meant no gasoline could be pumped at this Dartmouth, N.S., gas station. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Ferry service between Nova Scotia and P.E.I. is shut down for the day.

Several flights from the Sydney and Halifax airports have either been cancelled or delayed and travellers are advised to check in advance. 

The poor weather has led the causeway at Big Island in Pictou County to wash out.

"Every once in a while, you get strong winds and high tide and it punches a hole through and takes out the pavement," said resident Robert Lang, one of about 20 people who live on the island year-round.

He said he lost power some time overnight, but he's not concerned.

"We're kind of self-sufficient here. A couple farmers, they've got tractors and some of them have generators. We're a close community, so if someone needs a loaf of bread and we've got two, you borrow it and bring it back," said Lang.

There were 20 motor vehicle accidents reported in HRM, according to police.

Warming centres

Warming centres have opened at the:
  • First Baptist Church in Amherst, 90 Victoria St.
  • Parrsboro Fire Hall, 252 Willow St.
  • Wentworth Community Fire Hall, 13752 Highway 4.
  • Westchester Fire Hall, 123 Valley Rd. in Westchester Station.
  • Mulgrave Fire Department, 358 Murray St.

With files from Ryan Pierce