Winter storm shuts East Coast schools, roads, hockey: 'It's a corker'

The Canadian Press
Published on December 16, 2016

HALIFAX — Atlantic Canadians like newspaper publisher Paul MacNeill were hunkering down at home on Friday as a storm shut large parts of the region down.

"It's a corker. We're just buckling down and waiting for this one to pass," said MacNeil as the eye of the storm passed over his eastern Prince Edward Island home at 11 a.m. local time.

The situation was little better in parts of Nova Scotia, where a 52-year-old woman died in a car crash on Highway 104 as the storm moved through the Evanston area early Friday. A seven-vehicle crash shut Highway 125 in Cape Breton, "and an additional nine vehicles went off the road as a result," RCMP said.

Most Nova Scotia schools outside Halifax were closed, and school boards in parts of northern and eastern New Brunswick announced closures as the mercury plunged. Schools in urban St. John's were open, but many Newfoundland students got an early start to their weekend as the province faced a messy mix of snow squalls, storm surges and strong winds.

All schools were closed on P.E.I., where part of the Trans-Canada Highway was closed for a time and the RCMP reported at least 20 calls for cars off the road.

"It's pretty much shut the Island down, at least for the morning ... It's a classic Island Nor'easter," MacNeill said. As Twitter feeds posted images of the island province with a "Closed" stamp superimposed on it, winds outside his house were gusting up to 90 kilometres per hour.

The RCMP throughout the region warned people to drive with extreme caution, as the Arctic-like conditions were expected to persist through much of the day and the winds and storm surges were to continue into the evening.

The Halifax Mooseheads cancelled their Friday night game against the Saint John Sea Dogs, reportedly after the major-junior hockey team got turned around by bad highway conditions.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie of the Charlottetown detachment said it's been a few years since the Island has gone through such a large dose of early winter frigidity.

Heavy drifting in the Tryon area sent a number of cars into the ditch on the Island's major roadway, he said.

"We've had a couple calls of vehicles rolled over and we've had calls from people stuck in the middle of highways unable to move ... We're advising people to stay off the road," he said.

The weather was so intense that Transport Department snow plows briefly headed to their depots to await clearer driving, he said.

When Baillie drove into work, he could see just a few metres from his windshield.

"The vast majority of Islanders stayed home this morning, which contributed to avoiding more incidents or injuries on the road," he said.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, police reported a tanker tractor trailer stuck in the road in the Doe Hills near the Chance Cove turn-off as snow hammered the area.

The Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island was restricting some classes of vehicles from crossing early in the day due to strong winds.

Nova Scotia Power's outage map indicated about 8,500 customers without power — most of them in Cape Breton — as of 7:30 a.m. local time.

The Halifax and Charlottetown airports were reporting a number of cancelled or delayed flights, and Marine Atlantic ferry crossings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were delayed until Saturday.

The storm came on top of a mid-week dump of snow that caused many services and public institutions to close down earlier in the week.

"Since noon time yesterday our area is at a complete standstill," said Richard Collins, the mayor of Montague.

"The wind is the major source of our problem. Thank goodness it's no longer snowing. It's blizzard-like conditions here and it's one squall after another."

Environment Canada was calling for a radical turnaround of the weather over the weekend, with highs of 12 C predicted for Sunday in Halifax, and 8 C on the Island.

But Collins was doubtful he'll see dry ground in the next week.

"Looks like a white Christmas to me," he said.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press