Winter storm shuts down businesses, cancels flights as Maritimers hunker down

A blizzard warning cancelled flights and closed schools, government offices and universities throughout the Maritimes on Tuesday as people hunkered down during a powerful winter storm that unleashed stiff winds and dumped heavy snow on the region.

HALIFAX — A blizzard warning cancelled flights and closed schools, government offices and universities throughout the Maritimes on Tuesday as people hunkered down during a powerful winter storm that unleashed stiff winds and dumped heavy snow on the region.

The messy system had already shuttered schools and businesses in the eastern United States, with thousands of flights also being cancelled.

Environment Canada issued blizzard warnings for Prince Edward Island, southeastern New Brunswick and most of Nova Scotia, along with a mix of freezing rain, wind and snowfall warnings for Newfoundland. The agency says winds could gust up to 100 kilometres per hour and snowfall accumulations could reach 40 centimetres or more.

Meteorologist Linda Libby said she doesn’t expect the system to move out of the area completely until Wednesday evening.

“It’s a big storm,” she said from Charlottetown. “We are looking at some … very severe conditions, certainly making travel for many locations around the region really quite hazardous.”

In its long list of warnings, Environment Canada said snow would mix with or change to ice pellets over parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island later in the day.

Officials throughout the region urged people not to drive as there could be near-zero visibility with wind gusts whipping snow across roads.

Some cities took their buses off the road and Highway 104, the four-lane link between Truro in Nova Scotia and the New Brunswick border, was closed to traffic shortly after midday.

The private company responsible for operating the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton in New Brunswick also advised drivers to stay off the freeway with visibility limited to 30 or 40 metres in places.

“It’s so cold that salt is not working very well, so you’re going to have slippery roads and you’re going to have poor visibility,” said Ross Mathers, the general manager of MRDC.

The company had its plows out in full force but they were having trouble staying ahead of the storm.

“The problem is we’ve slowed down so much because of the visibility, we can’t do our normal speeds and that just causes us more problems, and then the wind comes by and whatever we’ve plowed over seems to be pushing it back in,” Mathers added.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at airports across the region but that didn’t mean a day off for security worker Brad Gilroy, who was taking the storm in stride as he took the bus to his job at the airport in Halifax on Tuesday morning.

“It’s all shut down from what I’m told but I have to report to work regardless and I’m … leaving my car safely in the garage,” said Gilroy, 50.

“Sometimes they’re much ado about nothing and sometimes they’re worse than forecast so you just have to take it moment by moment and judge it accordingly,” he said.

“That’s why I’m leaving my car at home because I don’t know what it will be doing 10 or 12 hours from now.”

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