Up to 70 cm of snow expected as 'dangerous blizzard' heads to Newfoundland

Adam Walsh/CBC

A major winter storm meteorologists are calling the "storm of the winter" continues to tear toward Newfoundland, and the brunt of it will slam into eastern and central parts of the island.

"This is the worst I've seen in years," said Wanda Batten, a meteorologist with the Environment Canada office in Gander. "This is the big blizzard you're gonna be talking about for years to come."

Environment Canada has much of Newfoundland under blizzard and storm surge warnings, including the Avalon Peninsula, Burin, Bonavista, Clarenville and Gander. 

"Dangerous blizzard conditions are expected, with very strong winds and visibility near zero in heavy snow and blowing snow," said Environment Canada in its latest weather update. 

The blizzard is expected to begin early Friday morning and last until Saturday afternoon.

Environment Canada said the heaviest snowfall will occur during the morning and afternoon on Friday.

This comes after weeks of snowy weather, with 42 centimetres of snow on the ground at the St. John's International Airport as of Thursday afternoon. 


Strong winds and visibility near zero are expected Thursday, with 30 to 50 centimetres of snow in some areas and 50 to 70 centimetres in the Avalon and Bonavista areas.

It's quite a big storm, and quite a nasty one. - Wanda Batten

Maximum wind gusts could reach up to 140 km/h along coastal areas.

The storm is expected to last through Friday and possibly into Saturday.

"Quite a significant storm with regards to how wide and how strong and intense this one is gonna be," Batten said.

Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker urged people to stay home.

"If you don't have to be out there, don't be out there," he said Thursday.

Crocker said his department is working with fire and emergency services to ensure everyone is ready for the storm, and they are anticipating there will be times when it won't be safe to put crews to work outdoors.

Some pieces of snow-clearing equipment are being brought from the west coast to the east coast to prepare for the storm.

Mayor discussed potential state of emergency

St. John's has had over 170 centimetres of snow since December.

On Thursday, Mayor Danny Breen told the media the intense snowfall has been a challenge, and he understand the frustration residents may have with recent snow clearing efforts.

"We budget for around 350 centimetres of snow a year. We have all our workers out, all our equipment, out to do that. We've had to clear the streets, then before we got a chance to do the removals that we would usually do, we have to go back and continue with salting and sanding again," he said.

"We are prepared. It is a significant amount of snow and we're going to make sure that we do whatever we can."

When asked if he would declare a state of emergency or request help from the military this weekend, Breen said "we're not at that stage", but municipal workers are prepared to deal with Friday's blizzard.

"Calling a state of emergency is one of the options that I have as mayor, and after revealing input from our staff over the next few days, I'll take advice and guidance from them and make whatever decision that's necessary for the city," he said.

Environment Canada is warning travellers to make other plans if they're flying in or out of Newfoundland this weekend.

Visibility on roads is expected to be zero at times, and Batten said conditions will be treacherous for both drivers and pedestrians. 

"It's quite a big storm, and quite a nasty one," she said. 

Both WestJet and Air Canada have posted travel advisories, meaning change fees are waived for flights scheduled from now until Friday or Saturday.

St. John's International Airport Authority says the weather will result in flight disruptions and is advising passengers to check with their airline on the status of their flight before coming to the airport. A statement said the airport's winter operations team is preparing runways and equipment for the harsh conditions.




PAL Airlines has said the weather will affect flights in St. John's and Gander on Friday.

Province urges caution

Meanwhile, 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. 

Environment Canada has a storm surge warning, advising of possible 80-centimetre surges combined with 10-metre waves, which could damage coastal infrastructure, especially in northern communities. 

The province is asking residents and communities to clear their fire hydrants of snow and ice if possible, and said snowplows will be active during the blizzard. 

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