Freezing rain closes schools and highways, leaves thousands without power

Significant ice buildup is expected Monday, and freezing rain won't taper off until early Tuesday, Environment Canada says. (Patrick Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Significant ice buildup is expected Monday, and freezing rain won't taper off until early Tuesday, Environment Canada says. (Patrick Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)

With freezing rain expected to continue into Tuesday, crews continue to restore power to thousands of customers around New Brunswick.

By mid-afternoon, there were 129 outages affecting more than 13,000 N.B. Power customers — the majority of them in the south-east in the Moncton and Shediac areas.

Schools and mulitple sections of highways were closed Monday morning after several hours of freezing rain and ice pellets in most of the province over night.

Environment Canada said freezing rain is expected to continue for the rest of Monday into Tuesday morning in all parts of the province except along the Fundy coast.

Despite widespread cancellations elsewhere, the Grand Manan ferry experienced no cancellations or delays on Monday.

Brian Ryder, the director of passenger services for Coastal Ferries, said wind speeds were about 30 knots, but the direction was favourable from the north, northwest. The real problems, he said, are with south-southeast winds that make docking difficult.

While pictures on social media showed a rough ride, Ryder said, "The vessel can typically handle more than people want to sail in."

WATCH | Ice rains down on New Brunswick:

All school districts were closed because of the weather. All NBCC campuses but Moncton were also closed on Monday, as well as Sussex Christian School.

At its peak, there were about 14,000 customers without power on Monday morning, but the numbers continued to fluctuate throughout the day. By 4 p.m., the number of affected customers dipped to about 7,400 but an hour later, it jumped to more than 14,500, with the hardest hit areas continuing to be in the southeast.

N.B. Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said restoration times depend on the amount of work required and the location of the outage.

At Bayfield, near Port Elgin, for example, a broken pole in deep woods required special all-terrain equipment. About 480 people were affected by that outage.

"In some cases, a repair on a transmission line can restore power to thousands of customers in one fix. That's the case on work being carried out right now on a transmission outage in the Turtle Creek area near Moncton," Belliveau said.

Vitalité clinic closures

Vitalité Health Network said all of its clinics in northwest New Brunswick and in the Bathurst area and on the Acadian Peninsula are closed.

The Haut-Madawaska Medical Clinic will be closed all day. Community Mental Health Centres and Public Health in Caraquet, Shippigan and Tracadie will be closed until 1 p.m. A decision whether to open in the afternoon will be announced in late morning, the health authority said.

Horizon Health Network lists no closures.

Significant ice build-up because of the freezing rain is expected or already happening.

The Saint John area and Fundy National Park are the only locations excluded from the freezing rain warnings. Those areas, as well as Moncton and southeastern New Brunswick are under a rainfall warning, with 20 to 30 millimetres of rain expected.

Moncton, Grand Manan and Kent County are under rainfall warnings as well as freezing rain warnings.

According to road condition advisories, sections of some highways are impassable. New Brunswick 511 listed 20 highway closures as of noon Monday. There are also several accidents reported causing further highway delays

Driving conditions on much of the Trans-Canada Highway were extremely poor, said RCMP, but improved enough for the advisory to be lifted as of 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Environment Canada is forecasting a prolonged period of ice pellets and freezing rain into this evening.

"Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and extremely hazardous," the weather advisory says. "Beware of branches or electrical wires that could break under the weight of ice."