HALIFAX – Schools and government offices were closed and flights cancelled Wednesday in parts of Atlantic Canada as a powerful spring blizzard began its push through the region.
Significant snow was forecast for all four provinces, but Nova Scotia and P.E.I. were expected to see the biggest accumulation with up to 40 to 50 centimetres predicted for some parts of the two provinces.
Power outages caused by high winds and snow that affected just over 2,800 Nova Scotia Power customers were reported late Wednesday morning in the Shelburne and Liverpool areas of the province.
While New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador were expected to get less snow the entire region has been warned about potentially damaging winds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour that could cause widespread whiteout conditions.
In western Newfoundland, where strong winds are common, Environment Canada says gusts could peak at 160 km/h and even higher in the notorious Wreckhouse area.
In Nova Scotia, some government services and offices were closed as a precautionary measure.
Schools were closed in parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and airports in Fredericton and Halifax were showing cancellations.
Sean Irvine, director of provincial operations with the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office, encouraged people to stay home.
“Stay off the roads to allow snow clearance operations to be undertaken efficiently and so we can keep people safe,” said Irvine.
Environment Canada warned residents along Nova Scotia’s coastline to stay away from the water and prepare for potentially damaging storm surges.
Irvine said the biggest potential for storm surge was along the province’s South Shore and along the Northumberland Strait in the northeast, where the surge was expected to coincide with high tide in the evening.
“The icing conditions up there do make it a bit unpredictable as to what the impacts will be, whether there will be ice pushed ashore that could complicate issues,” he said.
Barb Baillie, executive director of maintenance and operations with Nova Scotia’s Transportation Department, said about 450 pieces of equipment would be used across the province to keep roads and highways clear.
Salt trucks and plows would work around the clock in two, 12-hour shifts Baillie said.
She said with the high winds, transportation crews would be taking extra precautions in areas like the Cobequid Pass on the way to New Brunswick and the Canso Causeway, which links the mainland to Cape Breton.
“They are typically areas that are affected by the high winds and we may have to close the roads, but that’s premature at this time,” said Baillie.
Halifax transit to suspend its bus service late Wednesday morning.
Prince Edward Island’s Office of Public Safety advised residents to prepare for the possibility of power disruptions, while the provincial government closed all civil service offices for the day.