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N.S. storm: Province requests federal aid after ‘massive’ winter snowfall

Click to play video: 'N.S. storm: Province works to clean up after multi-day snowfall'
N.S. storm: Province works to clean up after multi-day snowfall
WATCH: As Nova Scotians continue to dig their way out of this weekend’s snowstorm, attempts are underway to aid the areas that were the hardest hit. As Megan King reports, the premier has called for assistance from the federal government and neighbouring provinces to help in its efforts. – Feb 5, 2024

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston says the province is asking for help after a historic multi-day winter storm blanketed much of the province in snow.

During a news conference Monday afternoon, Houston said the province is working with New Brunswick and P.E.I. to get more equipment to clear out roads, and the federal government will provision gear out of Cape Breton Highlands National Park to assist with the efforts.

This came after the province wrote to federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan “requesting support to help dig out from this massive snowfall.”

They also asked for portable fuel storage to replenish snow removal equipment and first responder vehicles, and air transport to assist with delivering supplies and evacuating isolated and at-risk individuals.

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Sajjan wrote in a social media post that officials are “actively assessing the most effective ways we can support and provide assistance as necessary.”

Houston said during the news conference that people with plows or who have a private snow clearing business should reach out to their local public works teams if they wish to help.

“Now is the time for everyone to come together to get us out of this as quickly as possible,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Halifax digging themselves out after multi-day snowfall'
Halifax digging themselves out after multi-day snowfall

Between Friday and Monday, more than 100 centimetres of snow fell at the Sydney Airport, and a volunteer weather observer measured 150 centimetres in Sydney, according to Environment Canada’s weather summary.

Just over 80 centimetres were recorded at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, with 30 to 40 centimetres reported in Halifax’s city centre and 33 to 52 in Dartmouth.

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This picture sent in by a viewer shows a car buried in snow. Submitted by Jean Morrison

The snowfall, which was the heaviest in eastern mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, prompted the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to declare a state of emergency and urge people to shelter in place.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a social media post Sunday night that he had spoken to CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall, along with Cape Breton-area members of parliament Mike Kelloway and Jaime Battiste, to “let them know that we’re here to help however we can.”

“To everyone in Nova Scotia affected by this major winter storm: Please stay safe,” he wrote.

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Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard said Cape Breton “took the brunt” of the weather event, with upward of 100 centimetres reported in some areas, though they are still working to determine exact amounts.

“This was a unique situation, for sure. We typically don’t see these kinds of snowfall amounts,” he said.

What allowed the storm to be so impactful, Hubbard said, was the fact that the low-pressure system responsible for the storm remained stationary offshore, allowing large amounts of snow to fall over an extended period of time.

Typically, storms will move up the coast or through the rest of the Maritimes, but that wasn’t the case over the weekend.

“Once it started on Friday, it kind of continued right through without any breaks in there, allowing those amounts to really pile up,” Hubbard said.

This restaurant in Inverness was blocked by snow. Submitted by Desiree Ryan

Images posted on social media and emailed in by viewers show huge snowdrifts atop homes and outbuildings, buried and abandoned vehicles strewn across major highways, and homeowners using shovels to carve tunnel-like paths to move around their properties.

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At the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, scores of flights have been cancelled or delayed, and more than 6,000 power outages were reported across the province Monday morning.

During Monday’s news conference, Houston referenced the multiple environmental issues the province has faced in the last year, such as the devastating wildfires in the spring and the floods in the summer which left four people dead.

He warned that it will take time to clean up after the snowfall, but said the province is doing “everything possible to get folks cleared out as quickly as possible.”

“We’ve had more than our fair share in this province, for sure,” he said. “But I assure you we will dig out. It will take time, but we will dig out.”

Closures and cancellations

Nova Scotia Health said Monday that some non-emergency services have been reduced in the eastern, northern and central zones due to heavy snow and poor road conditions. More information can be found on the Nova Scotia Health website.

The RCMP also said all detachments in Northeast Nova are closed for in-person front counter services Monday.

“Officers continue to respond to calls as usual,” RCMP said in a release. “The public is advised to avoid any unnecessary travel. For emergencies, call 911.”

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Schools are closed within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education, the Strait Regional Centre for Education, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, the Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education, the South Shore Regional Centre for Education, and the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education.

The Tri-County Regional Centre for Education has also closed schools in Digby, though schools in Yarmouth and Shelburne remain open.

As well, many government offices delayed opening across the province and courthouses in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, Pictou and Antigonish are closed Monday due to the weather.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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