The first major winter storm of the season has hit the Island.
Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning Thursday afternoon, and followed that up with a storm surge warning Friday morning. Snow began falling lightly Friday morning, then more heavily through the afternoon and evening. Poor visibility is being driven by high winds.
The Confederation Bridge closed to high-sided vehicles Friday at 6 p.m.
Scattered power outages began Friday evening, mostly in P.E.I.'s central region. Check Maritime Electric's outage map online, updated every 10 minutes.
COVID-19 testing clinics across the Island closed at noon in advance of the storm, and will also be closed Saturday. The clinic in O'Leary did not open on Friday.
Closing early or cancelling your event? Call it into Storm Centre: 1-877-236-9350
Total snowfall will be in the 20-40 centimetre range or more through Saturday morning, with the heaviest snow falling Friday evening.
The snow will come with high winds.
"Strong northeasterly winds will increase tonight with sustained winds from 50-60 km/h or more and gusts from 70-100 km/h or more possible later this evening and overnight," said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland.
The strong winds combine with high tides overnight leading to the storm surge warning for the North Shore, where Scotland said onshore winds will produce high waves and pounding surf.
"With heavy snow accumulating on power lines and branches, outages are possible as the wind continues to increase. Please keep your phone charged and be prepared to lose power," Scotland said.
Winds will become northerly then northwesterly and ease to the 40-80 km/h range with sustained gusts Saturday morning, with steady snow tapering off to flurries, Scotland said.
The wind will continue to ease gradually through Saturday as the sky slowly clears from west to east through the day, but blowing snow will likely still be a problem into the early afternoon for exposed areas.
The P.E.I. Transportation Department has been tracking the storm and is ready, said Stephen Szwarc, director of highway maintenance.
"It's going to be a big one," Szwarc said, noting plows will be pulled from the roads if visibility is too poor. He urged drivers to stay off the roads.
Flights from Montreal and Toronto to P.E.I. Friday night have been cancelled.
UPEI closed at 1 p.m. Friday, but the AVC Veterinary Teaching Hospital will remain open for emergencies.
Provincial civil service offices across the Island closed at 12:30 p.m.
The province has added emergency beds for Islanders who need temporary shelter during the storm, a news release from the Department of Social Development and Housing said. Call the shelter support line at 1-833-220-4722, or 211. The Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown will also remain open until 8 p.m. to help anyone looking for shelter.
'Be patient in the morning'
P.E.I.'s Emergency Measures Organization is keeping an eye on the storm and is ready to help local governments and agencies if needed. Provincial emergency management co-ordinator Tanya Mullally said the timing of the storm is good in that plows should have a start on clearing roads overnight.
"I would ask Islanders to be patient in the morning, provide snowplow operators the time to clean the roads to ensure everyone's safety," Mullally said.
She also urged people to stay off the roads Friday night.
"This would be a great night to kick back and watch the snow fall, enjoy some storm chips and find a new Netflix movie/series to watch, and stay safe indoors."