(Halifax) The Nova Scotia government is seeking help from Ottawa as the province recovers from “extreme snowfall” that prompted parts of Cape Breton to declare a local state of emergency.
A stuck low pressure system off the province’s east coast dumped heavy amounts of snow on the eastern half of the province’s mainland and Cape Breton, where preliminary observations showed more than 100 centimeters ‘had accumulated in the Sydney area since Friday.
On Monday afternoon, Minister responsible for the Office of Emergency Management John Lohr released a letter to federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan saying the province needed heavy equipment to help with snow removal.
Mr. Lohr is also calling for portable fuel storage equipment and air transportation assistance to facilitate the delivery of essential supplies and the evacuation of isolated residents.
Nova Scotia has already requested help from neighboring provinces, but Lohr says Ottawa must step in to restore public safety because it could take days before transportation links can be cleared.
Meanwhile, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall was still urging residents to stay home Monday. Even though the weather has improved, Mme McDougall said a sense of panic was setting in among those who felt stranded and isolated.
“At my house, for example, we have a snow bank that is a good five feet at the end of our driveway, so we can’t take the vehicle out,” she said in an interview. It’s going to take a while to clear all this out. »
Mayor McDougall said staff from the Ally Center in Cape Breton and the community homeless shelter in Sydney were visiting vulnerable people.
“I know that there are still people who live in tents (…) And there are elderly people who live alone and for whom I am also very worried,” she said. The regional municipality was compiling a register of people who need help on Monday, as it did during post-tropical storm Fiona in September 2022, the mayor said.
Mme McDougall said she and her council colleagues declared a local state of emergency for a week on Sunday in an effort to get more snow removal equipment from the provincial government. “Our municipality does not have the infrastructure or resources to deal with the incredible amount of snow we have here. »
Snow banks of 150 cm
On Monday morning, Environment Canada reported that a volunteer weather observer recorded 150 centimeters of snow in Sydney, Cape Breton’s largest community. In addition, 103 cm of snow was recorded at Sydney Airport, and 98 cm fell on Ingonish, on the northeast coast of the island.
Images posted on social media show huge accumulations of snow on houses, vehicles completely covered and abandoned on main arteries, and residents digging exits with shovels to get out of their homes.
Ian Hubbard, a Halifax-based meteorologist for Environment Canada, said more than 100 cm of snow was being reported in various locations in Cape Breton.
The Mi’kmaq community of Eskasoni, about 40 kilometers southwest of Sydney, declared a local state of emergency early Monday morning. “Eskasoni First Nation has exhausted all its resources, with vehicles capable of clearing snow within the community blocked or unable to continue operations,” officials said in an online post.
More than 70 cm of snow was recorded in eastern Nova Scotia, but strong winds since Friday have carved out huge snow banks that will require several days of snow removal.
In the Halifax area, between 30 and 50 cm have fallen since Friday afternoon, but 84 cm have been reported at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, according to preliminary reports. Many flights were canceled or delayed at the region’s busiest airport, and more than 7,000 power outages were reported across the province as of Monday morning.
Schools were closed and administrations delayed their openings or closed for the day, except in municipalities in western Nova Scotia, where snowfall was much lighter.
High winds over the weekend made it difficult to accurately measure snowfall, Hubbard said. For example, northeast of the Halifax area, communities in Pictou County reported between 50 and 100 cm of snow.
Mr Hubbard said the center of the snowstorm settled south of Cape Sable Island on Friday afternoon and barely moved until Monday morning, when it began to break.
“Typically a winter storm tends to move north or northeast and move, resulting in 12 to 18 hours of precipitation, but this storm has been treading water,” the meteorologist said. .
Temperatures rose near or just above freezing Monday in Nova Scotia as the storm system moved offshore. Hubbard said good weather was forecast for the rest of the week, although bands of snow were still moving across northern Nova Scotia Monday morning.
In Prince Edward Island, a provincial by-election scheduled for Monday was postponed until Tuesday.
Twenty years ago, in February 2004, a storm dumped up to 95 cm of snow in the Halifax area. This storm was nicknamed “White Juan” because it occurred five months after Hurricane Juan made landfall near Halifax, with destructive gusts reaching 140 km/h.