02/18/2013 08:24 EST | Updated 04/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Snow And Wind Storm Pounds The Maritimes


Heavy snow and driving wind forced closures and created dangerous driving conditions around the Maritimes Monday, with power outages reported in some areas of the region.

Environment Canada issued wind and blowing snow warnings the entire east coast of New Brunswick. There was a wind warning, a blowing-snow warning and a winter-storm warning in effect for Moncton and the southeast region of the province.

Winds were expected to gust up to 90 km/h Monday, and higher-than-normal water levels were expected to push in along the gulf coast.

Nova Scotia also faced a series of warnings from blizzard conditions in Inverness County on Cape Breton, to wind and blowing snow warnings in other parts of the province.

Winds of up to 160 km/h in Inverness County on Sunday were being blamed as a factor in two accidents. RCMP say no one was hurt in the weekend crashes, but the police took the unusual step of warning drivers to be careful of the strong winds.

CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham said having back-to-back storms with this much snow is unusual for the region.

"Moncton would get one every two years and Fredericton and Saint John would get a 25 centimetres of snowfall in February once maybe every 10 years and to have two of those in one year — actually two weeks back to back is really rare," he said.

Jeff Scott, with Moncton Public Works, said city crews have had a difficult time dealing with the back-to-back storms.

"We had pretty much gotten finished a lot of the major clean-up from the last blizzard — this one coming in, the thing that was different about it was just how much moisture there is in the snow it's caused a lot of ice pack on the roads and that's going to take a little while to get cleaned off," Scott said.

"We started our snow response at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon so most of them have met their 16 hour limits on their working so we're working with a skeleton crew today and [we're trying] to deal with all the critical points as we have to until we can get our main crews back in to finish the clean-up."

Prince Edward Island is blanketed with weather warnings.

The storm comes as P.E.I. is celebrating a public holiday, as are some other provinces that are marking Family Day. Schools were already scheduled to be closed on Monday in P.E.I. because of Islander Day.

However, the winter storm forced other Maritime schools to cancel classes Monday, including in New Brunswick, in the Anglophone West, Anglophone North, Anglophone South, Anglophone East and Francophone South districts, and Nova Scotia, where regional school boards have put classes on hold. The closures are due to the storm and dangerous road conditions.

Thousands without power

The storm caused widespread power outages.

Nova Scotia Power reported 6,501 customers without electricity as of 11:08 a.m. Most of those outages had been restored by 6 p.m. AT.

Meanwhile, NB Power had as many as 6,124 customers without power. The largest number of outages was in the Fredericton area, where 1,496 customers woke up to no electricity. As of 6:48 p.m., all but 32 customers had power restored.

"This storm has certainly created significant damage including broken poles and large trees on line," said Meghan Gerrish, a NB Power official, in a statement.

"Due to the challenges crews are facing in terms of the large geographical spread of the outage and the volume of repairs, the estimated restoration times could vary. Power restoration can be challenging and can present many hazards. Restoration must be done safely and carefully to ensure that we are not putting the public or line technicians at risk."

Dangerous driving conditions

There were reports of poor highway driving conditions on Monday morning and into Monday evening. The New Brunswick Department of Transportation says roads were snow-covered and slippery, with poor visibility and heavy drifting in places.

RCMP Const. Damien Thériault recommended that motorists stay off the roads if possible.

"So we are certainly asking motorists to be careful out there — if they don't need to be out right now the best thing is to stay home and let the cleaning crews do their work," he said.

Colleen Gorman, spokeswoman with Brunway, the company that maintains the Trans-Canada Highway from the Quebec border to just outside Fredericton, said the highway was snow-covered, and recommended people delay any travel plans until later in the day.

Dylan Gamble, manager of streets and roads in Fredericton, said the main roads in the capital city are cleared, but crews still have work to do on side streets.

Moncton streets are in a similar state. The city says streets have been plowed but they remain snow-packed.

The city has taken Codiac Transpo buses off the roads for the morning.

While some city workers were busy plowing streets, some staff were arranging for vehicles to be towed. A city official says about 20 cars left on the streets had to be towed on Sunday night and Monday morning.

Police say Highway 7 is very icy and covered with heavy snow.

An RCMP official says several vehicles have been sliding off the highway, but there are no reports of damage.

Police are asking drivers not to pull over for other vehicles if they look like they're all right.

Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is closed Monday morning to high-sided vehicles including tractor-trailers, buses and cars towing trailers. The restrictions were put in place at about 1 a.m.

All of the early flights from the Greater Moncton International Airport have been cancelled. There have been reports of other delays at the Fredericton and Saint John airports as well.

There are also several cancellations or delays at the Stanfield International Airport in Halifax.

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