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Bad Weather in Canada…. Nova Scotia snowstorm: Parts of Cape Breton under local state of emergency

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Nova Scotians already buried under as much as 80 centimetres of snow hunkered down and braced on Sunday as a powerful storm hovering over the province seemed poised to linger well into a third day.

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The heavy, continuous snowfall prompted the Cape Breton Municipality to declare a local state of emergency. Mayor Amanda McDougall shared the development in a video posted to her Facebook page, saying the step was necessary in light of the ongoing storm.

“The reason that council went forward with the local state of emergency is really and truly to keep people off the roads,” McDougall said in the video.

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“We need to keep people in their houses, because right now that’s the safest place to be.”

Bus service in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality was cancelled for the day Sunday and will not resume until at least Tuesday. The Halifax Regional Municipality ran only limited transit routes as Environment Canada urged residents to avoid non-essential travel.

“This is a lot of snow,” Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said in an interview Sunday. “So the key thing right now is to stay off the roads.”

“That is the top priority because we need to give the snow clearing crews the opportunity to keep roads clear for emergency vehicles,” he said, adding gusty winds are tossing snow around and hampering visibility.

Schools in the Halifax and Cape Breton municipalities have already announced they will be closed today due to the storm.

Robichaud said the low pressure system that stalled southeast of the Atlantic coast has dumped 75 centimetres of snow along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore and about 80 centimetres in Cape Breton since early Saturday.

He said he is aware of some reports of up to 100 centimetres of snow in Cape Breton, which he said is possible though not yet confirmed.

“It’s really an impossibility to get accurate snowfall measurements just because of the nature of snow, but no matter what the number is, it’s really a lot of snow,” Robichaud said.

“And there’s more to come. We’re seeing another band of heavier snow moving into parts of Richmond, Guysborough and Antigonish Counties.”

Parts of Nova Scotia are expected to see an additional 30 to 50 centimetres of snow by today Monday.

A spokesperson for federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan said he’s monitoring the storm as it pummels the Atlantic region, but notes no formal requests for government support have come in from affected provinces.

In Dartmouth, N.S., David Bingley brought out his snowblower for the first time this winter and spent at least an hour clearing massive snow drifts from his own driveway and those of three neighbours.

“I don’t think people saw this coming, or we didn’t realize that this was going to be three days of it,” Bingley said Sunday while standing outside of a Dartmouth convenience store amid hip-high snowbanks.

A local state of emergency remained in effect in parts of Cape Breton on Monday morning, as Nova Scotia dug out from one of the heaviest snowfalls in 20 years.

On Sunday afternoon, as a stalled low-pressure system continued to dump snow on the island for a second day, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality urged people to stay at home.

“Do not travel,” the municipality said in an online post. “Roadways are being cleared for emergency response and travel of essential workers. The process is slow and plows require several passes to deal with the significant accumulation.”

Images posted on social media showed huge snowdrifts atop homes and outbuildings, buried and abandoned vehicles strewn across major highways, and homeowners using shovels to carve tunnel-like paths to move around their properties.

The Eskasoni First Nation, about 40 kilometres southwest of Sydney, declared a local state of emergency early Monday. The band issued a statement saying it was expecting up to 150 centimetres of snow by the end of the day.

“Eskasoni First Nation has exhausted all resources, with snow removal-capable vehicles within the community becoming stuck or otherwise unable to continue operations,” the band said in an online post.

More than 80 cm of snow were recorded in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, but strong winds since Friday sculpted massive drifts that will take days to clear.

Unofficial records showed up to 150 cm had fallen in Sydney, the largest community in Cape Breton. In the Halifax area, between 40 and 50 cm fell since Friday afternoon, but 83 cm was reported at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Scores of flights were cancelled or delayed at the region’s busiest airport, and more than 7,000 power outages were reported across the province Monday morning.

Schools were closed, and government offices delayed opening or closed for the day, except in the western municipalities, where the snowfall was much lighter.

Strong winds over the weekend made it difficult to measure the snowfall, said Ian Hubbard, a Halifax-based meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Northeast of the Halifax region, for example, communities in Pictou County reported between 50 and 100 cm of snow.

Hubbard said the centre of the storm parked itself off Nova Scotia’s east coast on Friday afternoon and it barely budged until Monday morning, when it started to break apart.

“It did stall,” Hubbard said in an interview. “It was able to continually tap into moisture and produce a lot of snow.”

In Prince Edward Island, a provincial byelection slated for Monday was postponed until Tuesday. Tim Garrity, CEO of Elections P.E.I., issued a statement saying the storm’s track shifted westward overnight, causing dangerous driving conditions across the Island.

“We want voters to exercise their right to vote, but in a safe manner,” Garrity said.

It was almost 20 years ago that a more powerful snowstorm slammed into the region, dumping up to 95 cm of snow in and around the Halifax area. That storm, known as White Juan, came five months after hurricane Juan made landfall near Halifax, churning out damaging gusts at 140 kilometres per hour.

On Friday, Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog, Shubenacadie Sam, emerged on a cloudy Groundhog Day, which prompted his handlers to proclaim springlike weather would soon arrive. A light snowfall started later that day and it continued all weekend.

On Monday, temperatures rose close to the freezing point or just above as the storm system moved farther offshore. Hubbard said fair weather was in the forecast for the rest of the week, though bands of snow were still moving through northern Nova Scotia on Monday morning.

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