Nova Scotia

Snow challenges Christmas travellers in N.S.

Travelling is usually hectic around the holidays, and Nova Scotia's Friday snowstorm made it worse, as last minute holiday travellers faced airport delays.
Many flights in and out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport were delayed or cancelled Friday due to snow. (CBC)

Travelling is usually hectic around the holidays, and Nova Scotia's Friday snowstorm made it worse, as last minute holiday travellers faced airport delays.

"Today should be relatively busy, but probably not quite as yesterday," said Peter Spurway, vice president of corporate communications for the Halifax Airport Authority. "Because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday ... a lot of people who are travelling have left already."

CBC meterologist Peter Coade said 17 centimetres of snow fell Friday at the airport, with the Halifax area getting the most snow in the province.

Cancelled flights also kept planes grounded at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

The snow that blanketed the province made for a busy day at the airport, as hundreds of travellers tried to get to their families in time for Christmas.

More than 20 delayed flights and two cancellations inconvenienced many travellers.

"I just came in and it was on the screen it was on time. But they just cancelled it last minute. Plane can't land," said Wade Whittle, who was headed to St. John's for Christmas.

"I called just before coming because I couldn't imagine a plane coming in this and they said they were coming and when we got here, they said they were diverted because they couldn't land the plane," said Christine Poirier, who was trying to pick up relatives coming in from Toronto.

Some travellers were luckier.

"They told me that I am going to get out at quarter after nine tonight," said Pat Bill, who was supposed to go see her son in St. John's. "Which is better than having to drive home and come back or maybe not get there at all. So I'm happy."

Busy airport crews

Crews were busy all day, moving snow, de-icing planes, trying to keep runways clear as the snow accumulated.

The airport has invested $7-million in recent years for new equipment. Most of that investment was in several snow clearing machines which have plows in the front of them, with brushes attached and hot air blowers on the backs.

Spurway said the machines can go down the runway at speeds up to 40 km/h, which "really speeds up runway clearing."

About 185 flights were expected to go through the airport Friday, and as more planes were delayed getting in, more are delayed getting out.

Stressful time

"When we get to this time of year ... people are very keen to get with family or friends, that makes it a little more anxious for air travellers," Spurway said.

"Flying is not my favourite pastime, but we do it because we have to," said Harley Stackhouse, who drove to Halifax from Moncton to fly to St. John's.

Long lineups left some in a less festive mood and contingency plans were top of mind.

"There's another one out at 9:15. So I hang out and wait I guess. See what happens. If not, I'll drive to the boat. I'm gonna get home no matter what," said Whittle.

"If we can't get out tomorrow then we'll probably head back to Moncton and we'll just scratch it off as one of those things that happens in life," Stackhouse said.

"You know you see this on TV all the time. People sleeping in the airports and so on. And we all of a sudden, well we're not gonna sleep here but we're in that predicament all of a sudden."