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‘Don’t put your shovels away’: Nova Scotia preparing for another winter blast

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Nova Scotia preparing for another winter blast
WATCH: A second round of snowfall is set to hit Nova Scotia on Wednesday, just over a week since the province saw a major snowstorm that forced parts of the region to dig out. This time around, municipalities – including Cape Breton – say they are prepared for the incoming conditions. Vanessa Wright reports. – Feb 12, 2024

As Cape Breton continues cleanup from a record-breaking snowfall earlier this month which blocked roads and trapped people in their homes, the region is now preparing for another storm this week.

Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for most of Nova Scotia Monday afternoon ahead of a nor’easter expected to dump more snow across the province.

About 20 to 25 centimetres is expected in counties along the Atlantic coast from Yarmouth to Sydney, as well as Pictou, Antigonish, and southern Inverness Counties. Counties in the Fundy region, from Digby to Colchester, can expect about 15 centimetres.

The snow is expected to fall Tuesday afternoon and evening for central and western Nova Scotia, and Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning for eastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton.

The snow will be accompanied by wind gusts of to 60 to 80 km/h, Environment Canada said.

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“Temperatures will drop low enough after sunset on Tuesday to allow for the fresh snow and strong northerly winds to combine for near whiteout conditions in some areas,” it said.

“Rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult over some locations. Visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow.”

A person walks down a snow-covered street after a winter storm in Sydney, N.S., on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shane Wilkie

Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said crews are still working to clean up last weekend’s snowfall, where up to 150 centimetres of snow was dumped in some areas.

The extreme snowfall prompted a local state of emergency, which was lifted Sunday.

“There’s been incredible progress from both our municipal public works and provincial public works,” McDougall said.

“But there’s still so much to do around widening (roads) and also removal of some snow banks in specific areas.

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“Going along some roads here, the snow banks are four times the height of my car.”

With more snow on the way, McDougall said the municipality is “very, very capable of handling this” – especially since some of last weekend’s snow has had a chance to melt.

“I was talking to one of my council colleagues today, and he said to me, ‘You know what, mayor? Thirty centimetres, we can handle that,’” she said.

“It’s interesting, the perspective of 150 centimetres, what that does to you in terms of your worry for storms.”

Officer cadets from the Canadian Coast Guard College in Cape Breton were called in Wednesday to help shovel a record-breaking amount of snow from the clogged streets of Sydney. Zack Power

McDougall said many of the additional resources that were brought in for the last storm, such as plows from other parts of the province and crews from Team Rubicon, are still in place and will help with the next storm as well.

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She visited the municipality’s incident command centre Monday and was impressed by the “humongous team” ready to help.

“That was really an emotional moment, to see how many people were there to take care of us,” she said.

They’re trying to get ahead of snow clearing now so there’s less to handle when the next snowfall comes.

“It’s just 24/7 operations in terms of snow removal: removing snow, trying to reduce banks as much as possible,” she said.

“That’s all we can possibly do, and just hope that the storm keeps going south.”

While the mayor is confident the municipality can handle more snow, she had a word of advice for residents: “Don’t put your shovels away.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing: keep checking in on each other,” she said, adding that it’s also “really important” to ensure people remove snow safely by taking lots of breaks to avoid exhaustion.

“Just do it safely and take care of each other.”

Province in ‘really good shape’

Guy Deveau, executive director of maintenance and operations with Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works, staff has made “remarkable progress” after last week’s snowfall and believes the province will be in “really good shape.”

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“They’re still working at it, they’re still pushing snow banks back, still widening roads in preparation for this additional storm, but it looks like we’re going to be well prepared for tomorrow’s snowfall,” he said Monday.

Preparations include taking inventory and replenishing resources like diesel fuel, salt, and equipment parts like snow plow blades.

While Public Works is preparing across the province, they are paying particular attention in northern and eastern regions that were hit hard by the last storm.

Deveau is asking people to stay off the roads Tuesday to make room for equipment.

“If you have to be on the road, make sure that you slow down,” he said. “If you meet a plow, give them lots of room. They’re big, heavy gear. They need the room, and they don’t stop on a dime.”

In a statement, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said the province is preparing for the upcoming storm and has restocked gas, salt and truck parts.

Crews are still working 24/7 to widen roads from the storm last weekend. I want to thank them for everything they’ve done and continue to do. I know they’re tired,” he said.

“Our operations centre continues to be activated and our staff will be there to assist throughout this next storm.”

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