East Coast winter storm moves to Newfoundland

HALIFAX – Blizzard conditions from an East Coast storm that cancelled flights and closed schools in the Maritimes unleashed powerful wind gusts as it shifted into Newfoundland and Labrador early Tuesday.

Environment Canada was reporting that the wintry blast brought up to 43 centimetres of snow to Nova Scotia, although much of the province got less than half that. Blowing snow also made travel difficult through much of southern New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The snow storm continued to track northeast into Newfoundland, stretching from Port aux Basques to St. John’s.

Amidst it all, a fire broke out in an abandoned building in Saint John, N.B., forcing the evacuation of 17 people and causing a power outage for three hours.

Tim and Irene Rootes, a retired couple, awoke to the site of flashing lights from emergency vehicles parked on Lancaster Avenue between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

“It was a bit worrying. I was contemplating getting dressed and asking when power would come back. But they were pretty swift,” he said.

Forecaster Linda Libby said that gusts in Newfoundland had reduced visibility to just a few hundred metres on some roads.

Near the St. John’s airport, there were gusts of 83 kilometres per hour, while in Port aux Basques, visibility was reduced to just 200 metres.

She said the gusts also reduced visibility in New Brunswick and P.E.I. through the morning, despite smaller accumulations of snow.

“I was talking to someone who was driving (near Charlottetown) and he said drifts went from two feet high to being as tall as his sports utility vehicle,” she said.

Numerous flights were delayed or cancelled at St. John’s airport, while ferries were docked and road travel was reported to be treacherous in many areas of the island.

Most schools in the eastern half of the island closed for the day.

Schools were also closed in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia as poor driving conditions continued through Tuesday.

Eastern Health Services announced that it would delay the opening of two community clinics on the Burin Peninsula, and advised the public that some regular services may not be available during the storm.

The federal forecaster said the Avalon peninsula can expect a total of up to 25 centimetres of snow, with higher accumulations for eastern, central and southern Newfoundland.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality said the storm had hit the island hard, resulting in the closure of city offices and the cancellation of bus service as blizzard conditions continued through Tuesday.

A news release from the city advised residents to stay home if possible and police urged drivers to stay off the roads due to near zero visibility.

The City of Halifax announced municipal offices, customer service centres and some recreation facilities would stay closed until noon as well, as the cleanup continued.

The provincial government in Nova Scotia planned to open its offices around 10 a.m. local time in Halifax, and noon in Cape Breton, where the storm was more severe.

Nova Scotia Power said it had avoided outages during the storm, partly due to some advance trimming of tree branches that might take down power lines.

The utility also said in a news release that colder temperatures meant the snow was lighter, drier and less likely to build up on trees and electrical equipment than previous winter storms.

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