01/27/2015 05:01 EST | Updated 03/28/2015 05:59 EDT

Blizzard batters New Brunswick, brings most travel to a standstill

Motorists throughout the southern half of New Brunswick are being told by police and the provincial Emergency Measures Organization to stay off roads and highways as a blizzard continues to batter the province.

Some regions, such as Moncton and Oromocto, had already received more than 25 cm of snow by mid-afternoon Tuesday, with more snow in the forecast.

The severe storm is slowly moving east, with snowfall expected to decrease into the evening, but winds will remain strong throughout the province, with gusts in the range of 90 km/h, according to Environment Canada.

​All main roads across the province are snow-covered and visibility is poor, EMO said in a statement.

​"Although conditions are expected to improve over the next 12 hours, cleanup in the wake of the storm will take some time. Roads will remain hazardous while crews work to clear them," it said.

"Residents are asked to avoid travel if possible. If travel is unavoidable, call 511 for road conditions, or check road conditions online, and drive accordingly."

The Trans-Canada Highway from Moncton to the Nova Scotia border was closed Tuesday morning due to blowing snow and poor visibility.  It reopened shortly before 4:30 p.m.

Highway 11 between Shediac and Kouchibouguac was also closed, but reopened by about 5 p.m.

RCMP advised that no travel is recommended on the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton due to white-out conditions. Route 126 between Moncton and Rogersville is now open, but travel is not recommended due to poor visibility.

Warnings have also been issued for Route 7 between Fredericton and Saint John, Route 1 between St. Stephen and Sussex, as well as Routes 8, 11, 15, and 16, due to poor visibility caused by high winds and blowing snow.

"The visibility is almost nil in some places and this is just the beginning, it's going to get worse," said Staff Sgt. Steve Gourdeau of the RCMP detachment responsible for the area between Grand Bay and Riverview.

"So it's not a question of getting to where you want to get today, it's a question of coming back," he said.

"So we are asking in the strongest possible terms for the general public to stay off the roads. Stay off the highway, stay off the side roads. It doesn't matter how important your job is, you should not be on the road today."

Due to high winds, the Confederation Bridge has restricted certain classes of vehicles from crossing until the conditions improve. The restricted vehicles include automobiles towing trailers, motorcycles and high-sided vehicles, such as trucks, tractor trailers, recreational vehicles and buses.

Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton all pulled their municipal transit buses off the streets at mid-morning.  Foster Thurston Road in Saint John had been closed early in the day, but is now open again.  However, motorists are encouraged to use another route if possible.

Ferry services for Grand Manan, between Saint John and Digby, Gagetown, Belleisle Bay, between Earle Wharf and Long Point, and Westfield, between Westfield and Hardings Point, will be out of service until further notice, due to the weather conditions, the Department of Transportation advised. The Evandale ferry will also be shut down at 5:30 p.m., until further notice, officials said.

​Non-essential city services are not operating in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John and municipal offices were closed Tuesday.

Saint John police and RCMP have advised people that because of the storm and road conditions, they will only be responding to emergency calls, until further notice.

"The road conditions are critical at the present time," said Sgt. Lori Magee, of the Saint John Police Force. "Drivers are being encouraged to stay at home. If they absolutely have to go out they should use extreme caution. Some of the city streets, there are snow drifts in the middle and motorists don't notice them until they're in to them," she said.

"Pedestrians, we're encouraging them to stay home as well because we are getting reports that some pedestrians are actually in the roadways. "

There was no mail delivery Tuesday in Fredericton, Miramichi, Saint John, St. Stephen, Oromocto and Moncton. Once conditions improve, delivery will resume.

Peter Coade, a CBC meteorologist, says the blizzard warning from Environment Canada now covers all of New Brunswick except the northwest corner and was necessary because the storm isn't moving quickly.

"The slow motion of the storm centre over the region will maintain the snow and wind for about 24 hours in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island," Coade said.

Environment Canada has also issued a special weather statement warning of higher than normal water levels Tuesday afternoon and into the evening from Kouchibouguac southward to Cape Tormentine as strong winds push the ice onshore.

Blizzard results in many cancellations

Most public schools in the province were closed Tuesday. The Francophone North-west school district was not reporting any closures early in the day.

The University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University in Fredericton were closed for the day, along with the University of Moncton. Mount Allison University in Sackville cancelled classes, but dining services continue.

The New Brunswick Community College closed all of its campuses in the province.

Provincial government offices were closed for the day.

Champlain Place Mall in Dieppe, Regent Mall in Fredericton, and McAllister Place Mall in Saint John did not open for the day, while Saint John's Brunswick Square closed by early afternoon.

Even Poley Mountain closed for the day, citing the safety of guests and personnel, due to the extreme high winds.

Numerous other cancellations were being reported to CBC Storm Centre.

Power outages jump to 1,800

More than 1,800 NB Power customers were without power, as of about 5:30 p.m.

The bulk of the outages are in the Miramichi area, with about 930 customers affected.

There were also about 780 customers in the dark in the St. Stephen area, and about 115 in Fredericton.

"We will provide more info on estimated restoration times when crews can safely travel to assess damage — likely late Tues or Wed morning," the utility posted on Twitter.

NB Power said it had approximately 80 crews available to respond to the outages, as well as nine private contractor line crews secured to assist as needed.

The EMO encourages all New Brunswickers to have a 72-hour emergency kit, including food, water, a battery-powered radio, first aid supplies and any special items, such as prescriptions, infant formula and equipment for people with disabilities.

NB Power also advises anyone who has medical equipment that requires electricity to operate to notify them at 1-800-663-6272.

Snow and wind continue into Wednesday

Coade says the snow will continue Tuesday night and into Wednesday.

"The snow will let up later Wednesday evening in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, having let up with the changeover to some freezing rain and showers later [Tuesday] afternoon in Nova Scotia."

Tuesday night in northern New Brunswick, residents can expect wind and periods of snow, heavy at times, and blowing snow bringing 5 to 10 centimetres before it begins to let up after midnight.

Wednesday in northern New Brunswick will be windy with another 2 to 5 centimetres of snow and local blowing snow.

For Fredericton and area snow on Tuesday will be heavy at times with 20 to 30 centimetres expected along with winds from the northeast at 50 kilometres per hour gusting to 90.

With the wind chill it will feel near -23 C.

Tuesday night will be windy with a further 5 to 10 centimetres of snow and blowing snow.

Wednesday in Fredericton the snow will taper to flurries by afternoon and winds will begin to diminish near noon with an afternoon high of -6 C.

For Southern New Brunswick Tuesday will be windy with snow, heavy at times, bringing 20 to 30 centimetres, and blowing snow.

The high will reach -6 C but it will feel like -15 C with the wind chill.

The snow and wind continues Tuesday night with another 5 to 10 centimetres expected along with winds from the northeast at 50 kilometres per hour gusting to 90.

Wednesday will be windy with another 2 to 5 centimetres of snow.

After the storm moves out on Wednesday, Coade says a ridge of high pressure will move across the Maritimes on Thursday returning the sunshine.

Coade is predicting more snow for Saturday.