Winter slams into Cumberland County

Darrell Cole
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Spring blizzard dumps 40 cm of snow on Amherst area

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Truro and Moncton and more than 40 cm of snow fell on Amherst during Wednesday's blizzard.

AMHERST – For spring storms, Wednesday’s blizzard was a doozy with approximately 40 centimetres of snow and winds topping 100 km/h.

“It was one of the worst storms our members have seen here in several years,” Const. Travise Dow of the Cumberland RCMP said of the blizzard that began just before noon and lasted late into the night. “Fortunately, most people listened to the forecast and stayed off the roads.”

The storm, which closed all schools in Cumberland County on Wednesday and Thursday and delayed most business openings on Thursday, acted just as forecasters with Environment Canada thought it would.

Tracey Talbot said the storm formed off the eastern United States and rapidly intensified as it approached Nova Scotia. She said snow totals varied across the province with Greenwood recording 42 centimetres, Yarmouth getting 41 and Halifax 22.

Talbot said volunteer observers in Amherst had the town receiving 40 centimetres of snow.

“The snow was pretty much what we thought we’d get, but it was the wind that was causing the biggest problems,” Talbot said. “We had gusts in the range of 80 to 100 km/h along with some coastal gusts of 142 km/h.”

Grand Etang in Cape Breton had a gust of 172 km/h, while the Wreckhouse area around Stephenville, N.L. set a record wind gust at 185 km/h.

The storm closed most businesses on Wednesday and cancelled Game 6 of the Eastlink Division semifinal series between the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers and the Weeks Crushers.

The game will go on Friday at 7 p.m.

Approximately 170 kilometers of the Trans-Canada Highway between Truro and Moncton, including the 44-kilometre Cobequid Pass, and the road across the Tantramar Marsh between Amherst and Sackville, N.B. was closed for more than 10 hours because of whiteout conditions.

Highway 2 between Amherst and Springhill was also closed while many rural roads were still plugged late Thursday morning.

“It’s really slow going out there,” Jim Boiduk of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said. “We had to pull our crews back yesterday as conditions worsened and as we’re getting out there to reopen roads we are finding the wind to still be pretty strong. In some cases, the roads are filling in just as fast as we clear them.”

Boiduk was urging motorists to stay safe and to stay off the roads unless it’s an emergency.

Staff Sgt. Alan Carroll said RCMP had few issues on the highways, adding most motorists stayed off the road once the snow started.  He said visibility got so bad that sections of the highway – including from Oxford to Amherst – and then the entire highway from Truro to the border had to be closed.

He said officers with assistance from Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal made a pass of both the east and westbound lanes of the highway to make sure no one was stranded and made sure everyone got safely off the TCH.

Amherst CAO Greg Herrett said town crews kept most town streets open Wednesday until conditions forced them to withdraw to the main streets.

He expects most town streets to be open by mid-afternoon and said one sidewalk plow is already out clearing sidewalks and another will be out once crews get more streets open.

“A lot of credit has to go to town staff for working around the clock to keep as many streets open as possible. They did a great job and put a lot of effort into it,” Herrett said.

The storm did claim a traffic light on South Albion Street by the entrance to the Amherst Town Square Mall. He expects that light to be fully functional later this morning.

There were also several reports of several houses suffering damage from lost shingles and lost siding as winds were gusting to more than 105 km/h at the peak of the storm.

And it appears we might not be out of the woods just yet. Environment Canada is forecasting another system to bring a mix of snow and freezing rain to Cumberland County on Sunday.

“We’re watching another system that will form off the eastern seaboard of the United States and bring a messy mix to the Amherst area on Sunday,” Talbot said. “It won’t be as bad as this one was, but it will bring some snow, freezing rain and rain to that area of Nova Scotia. It’s still several days out so a lot can change between now and then. People should keep an eye on the forecast.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Environment Canada, Trans-Canada Highway, Eastlink Division Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers RCMP Amherst Town Square Mall

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, United States Nova Scotia Truro Grand Etang Cape Breton Stephenville Moncton Sackville Oxford South Albion Street

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