Thousands lose power as wet and gusty winter storm sweeps through East Coast

By Canadian Press

HALIFAX — The East Coast’s first major nor’easter of the year delivered wet snow and powerful gusts that left thousands without power Saturday, even as it continued to batter Newfoundland and southeastern Labrador later in the day.

Environment Canada said the storm delivered between 10 to 40 centimetres of snow to portions of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, while winds gusted between 70 and 100 kilometres per hour on Friday night. 

The storm also surprised many in Nova Scotia with rarely heard winter thunder echoing through the snowfall, cold rain and wind. The snow, which was initially heavy and damp, grew lighter and drier through the day on Saturday as temperatures dropped and the sun emerged in some regions.

As of mid-afternoon on Saturday, Nova Scotia Power reported about 20,000 customers had lost electricity, while in New Brunswick there were 250 customers without power and P.E.I. had about 3,800 utility customers with outages. Newfoundland Power was reporting close to 3,000 outages by 2 p.m. local time, with numbers mounting as the storm moved across the island. 

“We have around 400 people, including power line technicians, forestry workers, damage assessors and others, on the ground across the province responding to this storm,” Nova Scotia Power Storm Co-ordinator Sean Borden said in a news release.

The utility said the heavy, wet snow and high winds broke power poles and caused trees and branches to fall onto power lines, resulting in outages. Meanwhile, road conditions meant slow driving for some of the crews attempting to respond in the Annapolis Valley and Amherst.

The western part of Nova Scotia, including Clare, Digby, Bridgetown, Kingston and Coldbrook, saw some of the largest amounts of heavy snow combined with high winds. The eastern  shore and Cape Breton, meanwhile, saw some of the highest winds in the province  with gusts clocked at over 100 kilometres per hour.

Environment Canada said Newfoundland and the southeastern coast of Labrador were expected to experience the storm through the day Saturday, with wind gusts projected to reach about 100 kilometres per hour in eastern portions of the province, and dangerous blizzard conditions forecast for much of central and northern Newfoundland.

Social media posts indicated high tidal surges along the province’s north coast, with ocean water lapping at the edge of seashore buildings in Gander Bay, N.L.

Still, some outdoor enthusiasts expressed pleasure at the arrival of the first significant snowfall since December in parts of the Maritimes.

In the Facebook group hosted by the Scotia Cross Country Ski Club, organizers used descriptors such as “At last” to describe the arrival of over 20 centimetres of snow while exchanging online notes discussing which trails would be the first to be prepared after weeks of bare ground in early January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.  

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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