Both lanes of Cobequid Pass reopened

Darrell Cole
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Westbound lane opened at noon

Snow and slippery roads led to the closure of the Cobequid Pass early Wednesday.

AMHERST – Traffic is moving in both lanes of the Cobequid Pass.

Heavy snow and slushy roads led to the closure of the east and westbound lanes of the Cobequid Pass between Thomson Station in Cumberland County and Masstown in Colchester.

RCMP closed the highway early this morning after vehicles became stuck near the toll plaza in both the east and westbound lanes.

The eastbound lane reopened mid-morning while the westbound lane opened around noon.

RCMP are still urging people to be cautious on the highway.

Const. Travise Dow of the Cumberland RCMP said weather conditions are still poor around the top of Westchester Mountain.

Crews from the Department of Transportation were on the scene this morning working to remove vehicles blocking the highway.

Robb Miller, who works at the Stanfield International Airport and lives in Oxford, has been stuck on the highway since about 5:30 a.m.

"From what I can see no one is going anywhere anytime soon," Miller said. "It's going to take awhile to clean up this mess."

Miller said he ran into snow at the bottom of the pass at about 5 a.m. Conditions worsened as he made his way to the toll plaza. He said he passed several tractor trailers stuck on the highway between Great Village and the toll plaza before coming to a stop.

"It's pretty boring actually, thankfully I have my cellphone with me and I've been talking to people on Facebook," Miller said.

Dow is not sure when the highway will reopen, but is advising motorists to stay away from the Cobequid Pass. Traffic is being rerouted through the Wentworth Valley.

Bruce Langille, a risk manager for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said the highway closure was a coming together of a perfect storm of sorts.

"The weather turned a lot faster than we anticipated. Our weather information systems were telling us it wasn't going to happen until much later. Sometimes Mother Nature plays tricks," Langille said. "There was no indication when we left the accident last night that this was going to occur.

"It was a high moisture snow that quickly gets back down by the large vehicles. When it happens, it becomes icy under their tires," he said.

One glitch that did occur, he added, was the overhead sign at the Oxford end of the highway was not working earlier this morning due to a power outage at the transportation office in Oxford. Power was soon restored and the sign illuminated warning motorists of the highway closure.

Plows and salt trucks were working the highway once the temperature dropped and rain changed to snow. He said remnants of last night's collision involving four tractor trailers reduced the eastbound section of the highway to one. That slowed traffic down and caused it to stop once the roads become snowcovered and slushy.

A similar incident in November 2007 led to the highway's closure for more than 12 hours, stranding hundreds of motorists on the highway. Langille said lessons learned from that experience are used on highways across the province, not just the Cobequid Pass.

The highway plan that came out of that incident was applied this morning.

"The point to be made is we have a highway closure plan and it's a holistic plan, not just for the Cobequid Pass but all 23,000 kilometres of highway. Since it was implemented after 2007 we have exercised it and updated it constantly so when this happens we're able to respond in a very efficient and organized fashion," Langille said.

The highway was closed for several hours last night after four tractor trailers were involved in a collision just before the toll plaza. Dow said the vehicles were travelling close together and ran into each other in heavy fog and rain.

There was one non-life-threatening injury in that mishap.

Dow said the highway was reopened to one lane overnight before being closed again when a couple of vehicles slid off the road causing traffic to back up.

"Once you had a couple of cars off the road it caused traffic to backup. Now we're trying to keep people off the road," Dow said.

All schools are closed in Cumberland County today.

Rain turned to snow early this morning, making travelling treacherous in blowing snow and slippery roads.

Just over 2,000 households in Cumberland County were also without power this morning.

The Confederation Bridge connecting New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is also closed to  high-sided vehicles because of high winds through the Northumberland Strait.

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Cumberland County, AMHERST, Wentworth Valley New Brunswick Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Realistic
    December 05, 2013 - 07:05

    Blaming the drivers is lame. They don't decide when they drive - get real. And yes, school should have been cancelled earlier than it was - ridiculous for them to think there was anyting safe about trying to get kids to school yesterday. More accurate weather forecasting would also help everyone plan for these things - but if they happen to go to crap like they did yesterday, people have to just relax & wait.

  • GoodTimes
    December 04, 2013 - 14:35

    Ahh comments like the ones below make me laugh. If the plows had been out when the storm started, there would be nothing to plow. There needs to be what you might call...accumulation before the plows have anything to plow. There needs to be an understanding with drivers that between November, and May you just might see snow on the road. In Canada, we refer to this as...winter. Winter is a time when the days and nights are colder, and where precipitation falls under these conditions, it is known as snow. Snow will accumulate on the ground as it falls. As we do not have self heating roads that automatically melt the snow, when it accumulates the plows come out, and move it from the middle of the road, to the side of the road. Often times the guys driving the big trucks do not take in to account that the weather in Atlantic Canada is very unpredictable, and that they just might need to pull over and wait a bit, on a timeline or not. Look at last nights accident on the pass as an example. Is DOT responsible for not having fog removal equipment on the roads? nope, of course not, when the conditions deteriorate, sometimes you just gotta stop.

  • macpass
    December 04, 2013 - 13:36

    Talk to the snow plow drivers before you trash them on here. They would love to be out early to plow but their supervisors only allow them out at the last minute to save money and avoid having to pay them any overtime.... it's not about your safety and never will be. Let me give you one statement that will clear up any misgivings you may have on any thing that happens. Just remember this one sentence and apply it to everything that pisses you off especially anything involving all 3 levels of government. Everything revolves around the dollar period.

  • ITravelToWork
    December 04, 2013 - 12:42

    It would be nice to see the salt trucks and snow plows out early when bad weather hits. We pay taxes for this service. School DEFINATELY should have been cancelled early this morning, as not a plow had been seen! Some children were already on the bus this morning before school was cancelled.

  • bill miller
    December 04, 2013 - 10:24

    if the plow operators would get out when storm started these roads would not be in this mess the young plow drivers dont care they just want the big bucks and just do what they want not like the old days when they had little gear to plow with they have the gear now and no one to run it shame on dept of highways

  • ITravelToWork
    December 04, 2013 - 08:33

    It would be nice to see the salt trucks and snow plows out early when bad weather hits. We pay taxes for this service. School DEFINATELY should have been cancelled early this morning, as not a plow had been seen! Some children were already on the bus this morning before school was cancelled.