WESTCHESTER, Colchester County - A mix of heavy rain and snow played havoc with motorists in the region on Wednesday.
© MATT VENO - TRURO DAILY NEWS
Town of Truro Public Works department digs debris out of a culvert on Highway 236 near the Robie Street roundabout to prevent further flooding.
Traffic at the Cobequid Pass, which had ground to a halt early in the morning, was moving in both lanes by mid-afternoon.
Heavy snow and slushy roads led to the closure of the east and westbound lanes of the pass between Thomson Station in Cumberland County and Masstown in Colchester County.
RCMP closed the highway early Wednesday 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.
Const. Travis Dow of the Cumberland RCMP said weather conditions were still poor around the top of Westchester Mountain during the afternoon.
Crews from the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department were on the scene early in the morning, working to remove vehicles blocking the highway.
During the highway closure traffic was being rerouted through the Wentworth Valley.
The highway was closed for several hours Tuesday 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.
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.
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.
Heavy rains caused flooding in a number of areas in Colchester County on Wednesday. Park Street, a main artery into the town, remained closed during the day and overnight.
An excavator was called to remove debris from a blocked culvert on Highway 236 near the Robie Street exit to Highway 102. Several streets were submerged slowing traffic and department officials were dealing with a number of washouts on secondary roads.
- With Truro Daily News files