Storm closes offices, cancels flights


HALIFAX – Flights were cancelled and schools, government offices and universities throughout the Maritimes were closed Tuesday as a powerful winter storm unleashed stiff winds and brought heavy snowfall to the region.

The messy system had already shuttered schools and businesses in the eastern United States, with thousands of flights also being cancelled.

Environment Canada issued blizzard warnings for Prince Edward Island, southeastern New Brunswick and most of Nova Scotia, along with a mix of freezing rain, wind and snowfall warnings for Newfoundland.

The federal forecasting agency says winds could gust up to 100 kilometres per hour and snowfall accumulations could reach 40 centimetres or more.

Meteorologist Linda Libby said the storm would likely intensify early in the afternoon, but that much of the region was already seeing visibility drop sharply and snowfall accumulations climb.

“It’s a big storm,” she said from Charlottetown, which was expecting some of the system’s highest winds and snowfall amounts. “We are looking at some persistence of some very severe conditions, certainly making travel for many locations around the region really quite hazardous.”

Wind speeds were starting to pick up to more than 60 kilometres an hour on the Island, reducing visibility to less than half a kilometre in much of the region, Libby said.

In its long list of warnings, Environment Canada said snow will mix with or change to ice pellets over parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island later in the day.

Municipal officials throughout the region urged people to stay off the roads as there could be near-zero visibility with wind gusts whipping snow across roads. In Nova Scotia, power outages were also being reported in Yarmouth and Kingston.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at airports across the region but that didn’t mean a day off for security worker Brad Gilroy, who was taking the storm in stride as he took the bus to his job at the airport in Halifax.

“It’s all shut down from what I’m told but I have to report to work regardless and I’m … leaving my car safely in the garage,” said Gilroy, 50.

“Sometimes they’re much ado about nothing and sometimes they’re worse than forecast so you just have to take it moment by moment and judge it accordingly,” he said.

“That’s why I’m leaving my car at home because I don’t know what it will be doing 10 or 12 hours from now.”

Libby said she doesn’t expect the system to move out of the area completely until Wednesday evening.

The storm spun up the East Coast, pounding parts of coastal New Jersey northward through Maine with high winds and heavy snow.

While the storm failed to live up to predictions in some areas, eastern Long Island north through Massachusetts and Maine were expected to fare the worst, with up to just under a metre of snow, punishing hurricane-force winds and the possibility of some coastal flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

It said Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could get about a half a metre of snow. In Maine and New Hampshire, a state of emergency has been declared, and government offices in both states were closed Tuesday.

Parts of Long Island were dealing with hazardous conditions, with snow falling five centimetres per hour. Blizzard warnings were lifted for New York City and New Jersey early Tuesday.