A winter storm has put a damper on the holidays in Atlantic Canada as forceful winds and a frosty deluge bear down on the region, disrupting travel plans and leaving tens of thousands of Nova Scotians without power on Christmas Day.
An intense low-pressure system made its way from Bay of Fundy to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and while precipitation appeared to have tapered off in some areas, heavy winds continued to lash much of the East Coast through Monday evening, Environment Canada said.
In Nova Scotia, winds were gusting up to 110 km/h in western areas and were to spread east before diminishing overnight, the weather agency said. The province’s power utility reported fewer than 74,000 residents were affected by power outages at about 10 p.m. local time, many of which were concentrated along the south shore.
A Nova Scotia Power spokesperson said downed trees have snapped power lines and broken utility poles, and the high winds have made it unsafe for crews to operate in several areas. “We’re still in the thick of it, (the storm) is still progressing eastward,” Tiffany Chase said in an interview Monday afternoon. “We have over 200 crew members positioned throughout the province to respond as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Chase said the power utility will have a better sense of the extent of the damage when conditions improve. She said if equipment needs to be replaced, it could mean longer restoration times. She also encouraged Nova Scotians affected by the outages to check the power utility’s website for the latest updates.
“As restoration efforts continue, we are bringing in 60 extra power line crews, including contractor crews from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” added Matthew Drover, the utility’s storm lead. He said 350 frontline personnel would be working to restore service by Tuesday.
But even with the extra crews, the utility estimates that most customers will have their power back by noon Wednesday. Isolated outages impacting just a few customers each may take longer. The provincial government’s Emergency Management Office tweeted Monday that a co-ordination centre has been opened and is ready to respond to weather-related issues.
Nova Scotia RCMP asked drivers to exercise “extreme caution” on the roads, some of which have been coated in a slippery layer of ice after a bout of freezing rain. Several social media users complained that the power outages had short-circuited their Christmas celebrations.
Denise MacDonell in Halifax said her family was planning to enjoy a quiet dinner with her father-in-law followed by a showing of the romantic Christmas classic “Love Actually” when hours into cooking the turkey, her power went out.
“I’ve been cooking turkey dinners for a long time. You kind of get it down to a science,” MacDonell said in an interview on Monday evening. “I almost cooked it last night, and I should have.” The 53-year-old mother said she’s postponing her Yuletide feast until Boxing Day and is hoping to salvage the bird by throwing it on the barbecue rather than risk eating “turkey tartare.”
Her 19-year-old daughter was disappointed that their family tradition had been interrupted, MacDonnell said, but she was more concerned for the power crew members who had to abandon their holiday plans to restore electricity for much of the province.
Much of New Brunswick was blanketed with 15 to 30 centimetres of snow, combined with ice pellets and a risk of freezing rain in the south part of the province, Environment Canada said. Meteorologists said the Fundy coast could see 110 km/h winds, and blizzard warnings have been issued for the Bathurst and Miramichi areas and the Acadian Peninsula.
They said up to 130 km/h winds whipped across Newfoundland’s south coast overnight and spread to the remainder of the island on Tuesday, and some areas will see between 10 and 15 centimetres of snow. Prince Edward Island RCMP asked drivers to stay off the roads as conditions deteriorated on Monday afternoon, and Marine Atlantic has cancelled ferry crossings until Wednesday.
Meteorologists said blowing snow could reduce visibility in many parts of the region. In Halifax, motorists were advised to proceed with caution on all roads over the coming days as crews continued to clear downed trees and power lines. Halifax police said it was dealing with an “extremely high call volume” and asked the public not to call emergency services about property damage unless it posed a public safety risk.