Major blizzard blasts through frozen Atlantic Canada


After first enduring the bitter deep freeze of the past couple of days, Atlantic Canada is now being hit by blizzard conditions caused by a major winter storm pushing in that's already caused major travel headaches throughout the US Northeast.

Wind chills across Nova Scotia dipped into the -30s throughout the day on Thursday, forcing residents across the province to hunker down for the day or bundle up against the cold. However, overnight, conditions turned far worse as Winter Storm 'Hercules' (as the US's Weather Channel has dubbed it) swept in. This storm already dumped up to 60 centimetres of snow across parts of the US Northeast, causing hundreds of flight cancellations and forcing the closure of major highways. Now combining with the frigid cold and powerful, gusting winds already affecting the Atlantic provinces, the storm has produced the first blizzard of 2014 for Canada's east coast.

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Weather stations across Nova Scotia are reporting between 10 to 20 centimetres of snow since last night, with the heaviest amounts across southern parts of the province. According to what Environment Canada forecasters are saying, that's just the beginning, since another 10 to 20 centimetres of snow is expected to fall from the storm today. The powerful winds blasting through the region are also whipping up blowing snow and even heavy blowing snow at times, and combined with wind chills are producing dangerous conditions for anyone venturing outside.

Roads and highways remain open across the province, but conditions reported show that surfaces are snow- and ice-covered, and with the blowing snow, visibilities are likely going to be down near zero in many areas.

Air travel in and out of Atlantic Canada is also a dicey prospect due to the storm. Numerous delays and cancellations have already been reported at Halifax-Stanfield International Airport, and many more are likely as the storm continues. The airport's website is so busy with requests for information that the only part of the site working is the Arrivals and Departures information, which is at least keeping travellers informed of flight statuses.

Although Nova Scotia has suffered widespread power outages due to recent storms, their power grid has been holding up well so far under the onslaught of 'Hercules'. However, one outage is being reported in Digby, along the southwest coast, affecting around 370 customers, and it is possible that the blizzard could cause more outages before it passes.

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In contrast to these blizzard conditions on the east coast, the areas further to the west that were also impacted by the bitter Arctic wind chills are starting to warm up and may even have a chance to 'thaw out' a bit this weekend.

Temperatures across central and southern Ontario will be climbing up to around the freezing mark for Saturday, and this relative warmth will be spreading into Quebec and Atlantic Canada by Sunday and Monday. The only down side to that is that it isn't expected to last, as another blast of chilly weather makes it's way through starting Tuesday, while areas further west, through northern Ontario and the Prairies, are will likely be dealing with more of the Mars-like temperatures they had just before New Year's.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

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