Snowstorm dumps 80 cm on parts of N.S. as services grind to a halt

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

Bus service in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is cancelled for the day, and 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 announced they will be closed on Monday 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 Monday.

At a homeless encampment in downtown Halifax, volunteer Steve Wilsack said the unhoused residents there are managing to stay relatively warm through the storm thanks to portable heaters and ice-fishing tents that have been reinforced with tarps and makeshift flooring.

“This is about the sixth storm we’ve survived,” Wilsack said in a phone interview.

“We re-engineered the ice-fishing tents so they’re tied down at all four corners. We put a proper floor in to secure it… (the tents) are meant to be out in the elements the way that they are. So we’re very pleased that people are safe in their own micro-living space of 36 square feet.”

Wilsack and fellow volunteer Matthew Grant have been staying at the encampment for the last 79 nights, providing unhoused residents staying there with support and supplies.

Grant said that while the residents are physically safe from the elements, storms like this are extremely scary for people without housing.

“There’s a lot of panic here. The only thing separating them from this blizzard happening right now is a piece of fabric,” Grant said.

Snowfall, winter storm and blowing snow warnings blanketing affected swaths of Nova Scotia are also in effect for Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kings and Queens Counties in P.E.I. are forecast to receive up to 40 centimetres of snow in some areas by Monday, and parts of Newfoundland could see the same amount of snow or more, plus rain into Tuesday.

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