HALIFAX — Atlantic Canada was being blasted by a powerful winter storm Monday that cancelled flights and shuttered everything from schools and municipal offices to businesses and hospital services throughout the region.
In Nova Scotia, Environment Canada meteorologist Tracey Talbot said winds were gusting to 110 kilometres per hour in Osborne Head, just outside of Halifax, and up to 20 centimetres of snow had already fallen with the storm not expected to move out until Tuesday.
"With the reduced visibilities and the heavy snow and the strong winds, it's a pretty intense storm," she said. "This is definitely a very intense storm for this winter and even for last winter."
Talbot said blizzard and winter storm warnings have been issued for much of the region, prompting the Nova Scotia government to close all of its mainland offices Monday and authorities in Halifax to close schools, shut down transit, ferries and other municipal services as a precaution.
A pedestrian walks down Brunswick Street in Halifax on Monday. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Snowfall totals across the province are expected to range from 20 to 60 centimetres, however, some areas could be buried under as much as 75 centimetres. Storm surges were also expected along much of the Atlantic coast.
Police were urging people to stay off the roads due to blowing snow that was creating whiteouts throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.
Peter Spurway, who lives about 35 minutes outside Halifax in West Lawrencetown, said the visibility at his property was near zero as winds whipped around his home while he tried to get to his barn to feed three ponies. He said he had to drive a truck to the barn, adding that it was tough to stand up in the face of the fierce winds.
"Snow is going parallel to the ground at this point,'' he said from his home, that was seeing drifts build up several feet high. "We just drove back into the open which was treacherous in that it was very, very hard to see because of the big gusts."
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Spurway, who is also communications advisor for Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said the airport departures and arrivals boards were "a sea of red'' as flights were being cancelled one by one due to the poor visibility. He said thousands of passengers would be affected by the cancellations.
Phil Mooney, deputy mayor of Yarmouth, N.S., said winds were blowing around his house since the storm set in at about midnight. But he said most people were heeding warnings to stay put.
"It's blowing, but not as hard as I thought it would be — it's not over yet though," he said. "We just got to hunker down."
New Brunswick and P.E.I. are looking at totals ranging from 25 to 40 centimetres, with wind gusts up to 100 km/h blowing the white stuff around.
"Public safety is the number one priority for everyone, and the less people we have on the street, the less chance there is of an accident."
It has been snowing in Fredericton since about 10 p.m. Sunday, forcing transit buses off the roads there, as well as Saint John and Moncton. Motorists have also been advised to stay off the roads and highways due to blowing and drifting snow.
City of Moncton spokeswoman Isabelle LeBlanc said people are advised to stay home.
"Public safety is the number one priority for everyone, and the less people we have on the street, the less chance there is of an accident," LeBlanc said.
Liquor stores across southern New Brunswick are closed today.
Nova Scotia Power said the storm had knocked out power to about 7,900 customers, with many of them in the Lunenburg area. Spokeswoman Bev Ware said in a statement that poor driving conditions and heavy winds were hampering the restoration of power, which was expected Tuesday evening.
In Cape Breton, councillor Jim Mustard said they were seeing stiff winds but no snow as of 9 a.m. It was expected the storm would move into the area later Monday morning.
"It's pushing on you, you can't really stand still," he said from Margaree, N.S.