East Coast storm with gusts, rapid snow accumulation expected to create whiteouts

45 cm of snow are forecast to fall in the northern areas of New Brunswick on Feb. 2, 2021. Callum Smith/Global News

A powerful storm with gusts and rapid snow accumulation is forecasted to create whiteout conditions as it blasts through the Maritimes Sunday evening and into Monday morning, Environment Canada said hours ahead of the projected winter blast.

Meteorologist Bob Robichaud said the agency is calling for snowfall of 20 to 50 centimetres depending on the track of the system through the region, with lower precipitation levels expected in northern New Brunswick and western Prince Edward Island.

“The storm intensifies rapidly as it approaches the Maritimes,” he said.

The meeting of cold air from the west and north with warmer coastal temperatures will lead to snow falling at a fast pace, Robichaud said.

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“There are going to be bands within this storm where we’re looking at six to eight centimetres of snow per hour and this with winds gusting will create whiteout conditions overnight and into the morning hours (in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton). Some smaller roads will become impassable when you get that much snow, that fast.”

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Robichaud said forecasters anticipate wind gusts of between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour and coastal blasts that could exceed 90 kilometres per hour, creating dangerous driving conditions with poor visibility.

The veteran forecaster says his choice will be to watch the kickoff of the Super Bowl at home this year, as he wouldn’t want to be caught driving in the projected conditions.

Click to play video: 'Winter storm causes closures in New Brunswick'
Winter storm causes closures in New Brunswick

It’s expected the snow will fall first in southwestern Nova Scotia late Sunday afternoon and spread northeast across the region through the evening.

Snow and strong winds are forecast to continue into Monday morning for central and eastern Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, P.E.I. and Newfoundland.

On Sunday evening, Halifax Regional Centre for Education announced that all HRCE schools will be closed on Monday, Feb. 8.

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“HRCE offices will be closed until at least 12 pm,” the centre said in a tweet.

Halifax Transit announced it was suspending bus service starting at 7 p.m. local time, while the city warned recreation facilities may remain closed on Monday.

Not all citizens of Nova Scotia and the Island are upset by the storm, as in some areas sparse snowfalls and warm temperatures in the first week of February have ended outdoor winter sports.

On the Facebook group “Nova Scotia cross country skiers searching for skiable snow,” Derek Estabrook posted his joy at the coming storm and the possibility that temperatures may stay cold enough to keep the new snowfall from melting.

“The forecast for the next 10 to 14 days looks amazing,” he wrote. “… Rest up today!”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2021.

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