The City of St. John’s and neighbouring municipalities declared a state of emergency Friday as a massive storm system moves through the eastern part of Newfoundland.
A blizzard whipping its way through the region has metro St. John’s hunkering down for the day, bracing against severe weather that is delivering heavy snow and which will later bring extraordinarily strong winds.
The capital and nearby municipalities — including Paradise, Torbay, Portugal Cove-St. Philips and Mount Pearl — have ordered residents to remain inside.
St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen declared the state of emergency at 11 a.m. NT, directing all businesses to close. All vehicles, except for emergency crews, have been instructed to leave the roads.
“Anybody that’s out right now, you need to return to your home and you need to stay there until we lift the state of emergency,” Breen told CBC News.
Airport snowfall through 11:30 am:<br>29 cm at St. John’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/YYT?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#YYT</a>;<br>3 cm at Gander <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/YQX?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#YQX</a>.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a>
More than 75 centimetres of snow is expected to fall on the Avalon Peninsula by Friday night, while winds are expected to gust to as high as 150 km/h in coastal areas.
The storm is so powerful that the Newfoundland and Labrador government pulled its plows from regional highways.
Transportation Minister Steve Crocker said the main issue was visibility, with windshields granting views to little more than a solid plane of white.
“It’s no longer safe. You can just imagine, the size of the equipment that our operators are operating, and they’re out there and they don’t know where a road ends or where a road begins in a lot of cases.”
An RCMP spokesperson for the province had stern words for anybody thinking of driving in a non-emergency.
“It’s no joke, this is not a ‘nice to.’ We’re really saying, ‘Stay off the road,'” said Const. Jolene Garlene.
She explained that officers have already been called to help drivers who’ve gone off the road and are stuck, but she said police on the island have limited capacity and ability to help in current conditions without putting themselves at risk.
Officials in the capital said city plows had been focusing on main thoroughfares to facilitate emergency vehicles.
Conditions have been steadily deteriorating through the morning, with visibility getting worse as winds pick up. Breen indicated the potential for power failures was a deciding factor in ordering the state of emergency.
0930. Drift is starting to form now and snow is wetter than before. Get home out of it if you can. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/6I7F6637iK”>https://t.co/6I7F6637iK</a> <a href=”https://t.co/OYM9lDVffj”>pic.twitter.com/OYM9lDVffj</a>
“When you get the high winds like that, and the snow, there’s just so many issues at play that you really do need to just shut it down — get everything cleaned up,” Breen said, adding he doesn’t recall the city facing such a severe storm in decades.
The last time St. John’s declared a state of emergency was an ice storm that struck the region in 1984, he said.
Breen said he isn’t sure at this point when the order will be lifted, as much depends on cleanup that the city had already struggled with after back-to-back storms.
Up to 10 cm falling per hour
Through Friday morning, between nine and 10 centimetres of snow were falling per hour in St. John’s, according to CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler.
The rest of the province hasn’t been spared.
As I make frequent trips to the coffee maker today, I’ll probably try to post a little video each time of the storm progression. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/RuarsodzRG”>pic.twitter.com/RuarsodzRG</a>
Environment Canada has a blizzard warning in effect for much of eastern Newfoundland, as well as the Bay of Exploits and the Bonavista Peninsula on the north coast.
“This is gonna be a bad storm,” says Mike Vandenberg, meteorologist at the Environment Canada weather office in Gander, N.L.
“Visibility is expected to stay pretty bad with a lot of snow blowing around for the next 36 hours or so.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has closed a slew of schools in the eastern and central regions, while Memorial University, the Marine Institute and the College of the North Atlantic are also shut for the day.
Metrobus cancelled its public transit service before snow even fell.
Most flights are cancelled at St. John’s International Airport.
The state of emergency order affects taxis. Jiffy Cabs, one of the best-known companies in St. John’s, said it is the first time in the business’s history that it ever pulled its entire fleet off the road.
WATCH: How windy and snowy is it? Check out our live cam of the view from The Rooms of St. John’s harbour
The Marine Atlantic ferry service has cancelled its morning crossings between North Sydney, N.S., and Port aux Basques, N.L.
Vandenberg said that with winds gusting so high, he would not be surprised if there were some power outages by Friday night.
As of 1:30 p.m., more than 300 customers were without power.
With that wind, total snowfall amounts will be “impossible to tell,” he said, with large drifts expected in some areas.
Vandenberg said it could take a couple of days for St. John’s to fully dig out.
It’s coming in hard here in Trepassey. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/IrishLoop?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#IrishLoop</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Snowpocalypse2020?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Snowpocalypse2020</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/snowday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#snowday</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/newfoundlandandlabrador?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#newfoundlandandlabrador</a> <a href=”https://t.co/lPw0gRjvh1″>pic.twitter.com/lPw0gRjvh1</a>
Winds picked up early Friday morning and snow started falling around 4:30 a.m. The strongest wind gusts will come in the evening.
The blizzard conditions are expected to persist into Saturday afternoon.
Breen said the track of the storm will make snow clearing a challenge, as winds will continue to blow snow onto roads while crews try to clear priority routes.
Everything you need to know about the storm today, as told by Lucy. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/XJEzw1cxDF”>pic.twitter.com/XJEzw1cxDF</a>
“The problem with the volume of snow that we’re getting and the rate that it will fall is that once we get through priority one, we may get partway through the priority two streets, and we’ll have to go back and start the priority ones again,” Breen said.
“And the high winds certainly make that even more of a challenge.”
The province has issued a public advisory, citing the possibility of “poor to near zero visibility,” and warning of possible coastal flooding and elevated water levels. People in affected areas are being asked to stay home if possible.
Storm, what storm? <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/townies?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#townies</a> <a href=”https://t.co/5E3DnsvRQg”>pic.twitter.com/5E3DnsvRQg</a>
Snow started early this morning and will continue to get worse through the day. Here’s what to expect in the St. John’s & Metro area. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/dtUQy1Ma0m”>pic.twitter.com/dtUQy1Ma0m</a>
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. James Cadigan said officers on duty Friday morning in the metro St. John’s region don’t plan on going home Friday.
“They went to work today prepared to likely be unable to leave work when their shift ended. So I mean they came prepared with food, blankets, flashlights, all these things,” Cadigan said.
“I think it’s important we recognize in a case of power outage we do need to be prepared. And unfortunately, we have experience with this type of thing, and we know it could extend for a few days.”
The view from Elizabeth Avenue. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nlwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Y76NxD4Tte”>pic.twitter.com/Y76NxD4Tte</a>
Breen suggested keeping an eye on people close by.
“It is imperative that you stay safe, and if there’s any of your neighbours who you feel may need some assistance, just check on them to make sure they’re OK,” he said.
“We’re all going to need to pull together here to get through this in the next couple of days.”