03/16/2015 04:58 EDT | Updated 05/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Blizzard slams Newfoundland, making road travel treacherous, cancelling flights

A March blizzard hammered most of Newfoundland Monday morning, on a day when most schools and many offices were already closed for the St. Patrick's Day holiday. 

RCMP and the Department of Transportation and Works were advising drivers to stay off all roads and highways in eastern Newfoundland, with road conditions deteriorating due to the heavy snow and strong winds.

RCMP Staff Sergeant Boyd Merrill told the St. John's Morning Show that drivers should heed their advice.

"The message is very clear — don't go out," he said.

"The road conditions are absolutely terrible."

Many flights in and out of St. John's were cancelled or delayed Monday morning

Blizzard warnings stretched from the Avalon Peninsula in the east all the way to Port aux Basques on the southwest coast.

Up to 40 cm of snow is expected in eastern regions of the island, which will combine with wind gusts of up to 100 km/h.

Whiteout conditions were reported on the Avalon Peninsula Monday morning, and CBC's Adam Walsh posted a short video of the scene on Topsail Road in St. John's, showing the poor visibility.

The wind and snow made for dangerous driving conditions in on both municipal roadways as well as highways, with drifting and poor visibility causing the RNC and RCMP to advise drivers to stay off all roads.

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said the snow should change over to rain and freezing drizzle on the Avalon and Burin Peninsulas sometime Monday afternoon, while the snowfall amounts will taper further west.

In St. John's, Metrobus announced that there would be a delayed start to service, with an announcement coming later in the morning. Garbage and recycling collection in the capital was cancelled before 6:30 a.m.

Memorial University of Newfoundland also announced that their St. John's campus and the Marine Institute would remain closed for the morning and afternoon with an update at 4 p.m. for evening classes.

The Corner Brook area, which has been hit with a number of snowstorms so far this winter, should see another 10 to 20 cm by the time the system passes.

Marine Atlantic announced that sailings between North Sydney and Port aux Basques on Sunday were cancelled due to the storm, and that there was a possibility that the cancellations could continue through Monday as well. The same was true at St. John's International Airport, where many flights were cancelled or delayed Monday morning.