March 14, 2018 9:40 am
Updated: March 14, 2018 5:09 pm

Historic church steeple topples in Halifax as latest Nor’easter hits East Coast

WATCH: Gusting winds from a winter storm has brought extensive damage to a historic church in downtown Halifax. Alexa MacLean has more.

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A small steeple that’s a part of Halifax’s urban landscape toppled early Wednesday in a fierce winter storm that left thousands of Maritimers facing power outages, school closures and flight cancellations.

Rev. Betsy Hogan, the minister at the historic St. Matthew’s United Church founded in 1749, said the damage is part of a worrying trend of powerful storms disrupting her church and the lives of some of the region’s poorest citizens.

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Residents of an overnight shelter in the Barrington Street church’s basement heard the crash and alerted the building administrator in the middle of the night, she said.

READ MORE: Nor’Easter leaves tens of thousands of Nova Scotians without power

The main steeple withstood the gusts, but one of the four smaller surrounding steeples had plunged to the ground, breaking part of a wrought iron fence that lined the sidewalk.

Hogan said she’s concerned by the frequency and intensity of harsh weather and storm surges battering the East Coast this winter, with the latest series of three storms occurring in less than a week.

“We’ve never had issues like this before,” she said in an interview.

“Something has changed that has resulted in not only higher winds and gusts of winds but also in the direction and the complexity of them. It must have to do with climate change.”

The church installed a new roof about two years ago, yet a wind storm in December was still able to rip sections of it off, said Hogan.

Elsewhere in Nova Scotia, about 51,000 homes and businesses had no power at daybreak Wednesday, though Nova Scotia Power’s crews were going through yet another set of repairs to restore the damaged infrastructure.

Utility spokeswoman Tiffany Chase said the combination of wet snow and gusting winds creates challenging conditions for the power grid.

“When you have snow mixed with rain it makes the snow heavy, it clings to our equipment and weighs down tree branches,” she said in an interview early today.

The Halifax Public Gardens remained closed due to “high winds and poor pathway conditions,” the city said in a tweet.

WATCH: Storm shuts down schools and businesses and causes power outages in N.B.

In New Brunswick there were fewer power outages, with about 4,300 customers still without power as of 6:30 a.m., but schools throughout the province were closed.

Environment Canada has issued a slew of warnings, saying up to 25 centimetres of snow was expected in some areas through today.

Agency meteorologist Ian Hubbard said 20 to 25 centimetres of snow was expected in New Brunswick, with up to 40 centimetres possible in some areas.

The RCMP tweeted that travel wasn’t recommended on the Trans-Canada Highway between Perth-Andover and Woodstock.

Prince Edward Island also had school closures along with one-hour delays as buses waited for roads to be cleared.

The Island’s utility said about 6,100 customers were without power overnight, but by 3:30 a.m. most had power back.

Environment Canada was also calling for potentially damaging high winds of up to 110 kilometres an hour along coastal areas of Nova Scotia and up to 100 km/h in parts of Newfoundland.

The weather agency said some areas of Newfoundland could expect 15 to 30 millimetres of rain by Thursday afternoon.

Airlines cancelled flights ahead of the storm.

WATCH: NS Power updates march break Nor’Easter

The departure board at Halifax Stanfield International Airport showed around a dozen flight cancellations early today, with similar situations in smaller airports around the region.

However, most flights after 7:30 a.m. were on schedule as the weather calmed over Nova Scotia’s capital.

Ferry crossings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were posting delays, and travellers were advised to check Marine Atlantic’s website for updates.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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