Thursday, December 9th 2021, 10:26 am - The biggest snowstorm of the year so far has forced widespread closures across parts of Atlantic Canada, with drivers being urged to avoid all unnecessary travel.
A potent winter storm moved into the Maritimes late Wednesday, with heavy snow and gusty winds prompting all schools across Nova Scotia to close for the day on Thursday. Conditions deteriorated quickly, and some areas are forecast to see up to 30+ cm of snow by the time it pushes through later Thursday. The snow will also make its way across Newfoundland during the day, with widespread winter storm warnings in effect for the province. The snow, combined with wind gusts over 100 km/h, will lead to dangerous road conditions and poor visibility at times. Drivers are urged to postpone any non-essential travel until conditions improve. More on the timing and impacts of this first major winter system of the season, below.
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THURSDAY: HEAVY SNOW SPREADS ACROSS ATLANTIC CANADA, TRAVEL NOT RECOMMENDED
A deepening low-pressure system brought its first flakes to Nova Scotia Wednesday night as it began passing south of the Maritimes, accompanied by slowly rising winds. By the early morning hours on Thursday, 10-20 cm of snow had already fallen across parts of the province, prompting all schools in Nova Scotia to close. Many daycares, government offices and businesses also closed or delayed their openings.
Though southern and central New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will definitely see some snow amounts from this system, it's Nova Scotia that will bear the brunt, with up to 30 cm possible by the time all is said and done.
In addition to the snow, strong northeasterly winds will produce blowing snow and reduced visibilities over exposed roads and highways.
"Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow," warns Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
Several flights in and out of the Halifax airport have been cancelled, and Marine Atlantic has postoned all crossings between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, N.L.
Not many vehicles on the road this morning #Halifax #nsstorm pic.twitter.com/bsswQL4A8b
Not many vehicles on the road this morning Nathan Coleman on Twitter: "Not many vehicles on the road this morning #Halifax #nsstorm pic.twitter.com/bsswQL4A8b / Twitter" Nathan Coleman on Twitter: "Not many vehicles on the road this morning #Halifax #nsstorm pic.twitter.com/bsswQL4A8b / Twitter" Nathan Coleman on Twitter: "Not many vehicles on the road this morning #Halifax #nsstorm pic.twitter.com/bsswQL4A8b / Twitter"— Nathan Coleman (@NateTWN) Nathan Coleman on Twitter: "Not many vehicles on the road this morning #Halifax #nsstorm pic.twitter.com/bsswQL4A8b / Twitter"
Across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, much of Newfoundland is also set to see some significant snow. Widespread winter storm warnings are in effect for the island, with high snowfall rates of 5 to 10 cm per hour expected at times throughout the day.
With the temperature differential being what it is, the Avalon Peninsula can expect some of the lowest snowfall amounts, and will even see periods ice pellets and sometimes heavy showers through the afternoon.
Steep drops in pressure in systems such as these often portend strong winds, and they will be stiff over much of the region as the system passes.
Powerful northerly winds with gusts up to 140 km/h are expected over the northern Avalon, including the St. John's area.
"These extreme winds have the potential to cause significant damage and power outages," ECCC says. "Blizzard like conditions are also expected for a couple of hours this evening from the snow and wind."
Drivers are being urged to postpone any non-essential travel until the conditions improve.
LOOK AHEAD: ANOTHER WINDY, RAINY SYSTEM AWAITS
Looking ahead further, the next system will bring widespread wind and rain this weekend with near record warmth for Sunday as temperatures hit the low to mid teens for parts of the region.
"Of great concern is the amount of rain and warmth over areas that just saw 20-30+ cm of snow with this latest potent system," says Dr. Doug Gillham, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "This could cause some street flooding and drainage problems."
Colder and near seasonal temperatures are set to return for early and mid week next week.
Be sure to check back for updates on the forecast in Atlantic Canada.