HALIFAX – A day after old man winter vented his wrath on Central Canada, a fierce snowstorm thrashed the East Coast on Saturday, grounding flights, hoisting boats onto wharfs in some coastal communities and leaving thousands without power.
Environment Canada blanketed Nova Scotia and much of eastern New Brunswick with blizzard warnings. About 30 to 40 centimetres of snow was expected in some regions by Sunday morning.
The storm was produced from a combination of two fierce snowstorms, one that swept though central Canada on Friday and another that battered the U.S. eastern seaboard. The combined system was also expected to bring 20 to 30 centimetres of snow to Prince Edward Island, said meteorologist Paula Sutherland.
Newfoundland was bracing for a big dump of snow — up to 55 centimetres in some regions by Monday. Winds were expected to gust to 120 km/h on the island’s southwestern coast Saturday night and on Sunday.
Dick Crowell, an emergency measures co-ordinator in Nova Scotia’s Barrington and Clark’s Harbour, said the storm caused some flooding for residents on the province’s southwest tip.
Crowell said a storm surge combined with high tides and pounding surf Saturday morning lifted some boats onto wharfs on Cape Sable Island, although he added that these types of events have become somewhat habitual for South Shore residents.
“We’re quite used to these kinds of storms. This is not an unusual event for us,” said Crowell from Cape Sable Island. “What made this one a little more difficult is the storm surge.”
The island’s Route 330 was underwater, making it impassable, he said.
“It isolates one part of the island from another,” said Crowell. “When it does that, everybody gets concerned that should there be some sort of a medical problem… it would be very difficult to conduct a rescue under the kind of conditions we had.”
Officials in the Town of Shelburne took to Twitter to ask residents to stay home so crews could mop up Dock Street and the town’s waterfront after both experienced significant flooding.
Comfort centres were set up on Cape Sable Island and in Lockeport for residents without power.
The usually bustling streets of downtown Halifax were empty Saturday. But Ontario resident Mike Keating and his two friends braved the blizzard in search of a watering hole to watch hockey after their flights back to central Canada were cancelled.
“We went to try and go to the (Midtown Tavern) and it’s closed because of the snow,” said Keating above the sound of a plow. “We’re stuck, so we’re going to make the best of it.”
Few cars could be seen on the roads near the city’s core Saturday morning as blowing snow whipped through the streets, creating near white-out conditions.
Some people opted to face the elements and slide down the city’s historic Citadel Hill on sleds and toboggans.
Nova Scotia Power said 21,000 customers were without electricity Saturday afternoon in the province’s Annapolis Valley and on the South Shore.
Utility spokesman Aaron Veinotte said 100 km/h winds and heavy snow had knocked down some trees.
Veinotte said the blizzard conditions were slowing down restoration efforts as crews carefully navigated the snowy streets. He said all power was expected to be restored by 11 p.m.
New Brunswick Power said on its website that roughly 1,100 customers — most of them in the Rothesay area — lost power Saturday afternoon.
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro had asked its customers to conserve power as a precaution due to extreme cold and stormy conditions.
The bulk of flights at Halifax Stanfield International Airport were cancelled and all Marine Atlantic crossings were cut for the day.
Similar scenes were played out in parts of southern Ontario and Quebec on Friday, leading to at least three deaths in Ontario — two on the roads and an 80-year-old woman who was shovelling her driveway.
The effects of that weather system were lingering Saturday. There were more than 100 delays and cancellations at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, with a similar situation at Ottawa Airport.
According to Environment Canada, downtown Toronto was blasted by 28 centimetres of snow. Peter Noehammer, the city’s director of transportation services, said main roads were clear Saturday and plows were focusing on side streets, many of which were difficult to drive on.
Another storm hammered the northeastern United States, where half a million homes and businesses were without power after half a metre of snow fell in Connecticut.
People in the Boston area were digging out of 40 centimetres of snow.