An arrivals and departures information screen is seen at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. Environment Canada has issued winter storm warnings and watches for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, saying the low-pressure system east of Cape Hatteras will bring fierce winds and heavy snow. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Atlantic Canada braces for powerful winter storm

Environment Canada has issued winter storm warnings and watches for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Schools, businesses and ferry services in parts of Atlantic Canada shut down Thursday as the region braced for a powerful storm that was barrelling north and promising to deliver a messy mix of high winds, rain and snow.

“This is definitely a very serious and very intense winter system,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard.

The federal agency issued a range of winter storm warnings and watches for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, saying the low-pressure system will bring fierce winds that could gust up to about 130 kilometres an hour and snowfall amounts of 40 centimetres.

Hubbard said the storm could unleash all sorts of weather in the region, forcing the agency to issue warnings for everything from wind and rain to blizzards and storm surges along much of the Atlantic coast.

“It’s the whole spectrum of weather with this system — you pick a weather and it’s forecast somewhere in Atlantic Canada, it seems,” he said.

He said the doozy of a system was expected to hit southwestern Nova Scotia later Thursday, starting as snow and then turning to rain before tracking up the Bay of Fundy. The province could see up to 50 millimetres of rain, possibly causing localized flooding.

All of New Brunswick was under a winter storm warning and the central and northern parts of the province could see roughly 40 centimetres of snow, along with wind gusts of up to 90 km/h in some areas.

P.E.I. is also expected to be hit by fierce winds and up to 25 centimetres of snow before it changes to rain in the evening.

“It’s certainly going to affect all of Atlantic Canada,” Hubbard said. “Parts of Nova Scotia are likely to see the strongest winds, as well as storm surge from Yarmouth County right up the Atlantic coast to Guysborough County.”

The danger too, he said, is that high tide will coincide with the greatest surge in the evening.

“That’s a very serious side of the storm we will be watching,” he said of the system that was drawing its strength from the combination of warm and cold air.

Nova Scotia Power said it has more than 1,000 people at the ready in what is its biggest-ever pre-storm mobilization of personnel and resources.

Flight cancellations were stacking up at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, with more than 40 departures and arrivals each being cancelled. Marine Atlantic also cancelled sailings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, while Bay Ferries shelved its crossings between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

School boards in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. didn’t wait for the storm to arrive, with most schools and some universities closing well before the weather set in. Some offices also shut down for the day.

Anticipation of the storm led to some light banter online, with some upping the hyperbole in reference to what was being dubbed a “bomb cyclone.”

“If calling it a Bomb Cyclone can get Nova Scotia Power to prepare like they are, I would suggest they come up with even scarier names if possible,” one person joked on Twitter.

Halifax Deputy Mayor Waye Mason immediately countered with: “Hellmouth eye of sauron cyclone coming up!”

Hubbard said the storm was expected to continue its northerly trek, with the centre of the low over the Gulf of St. Lawrence early Friday and packing strong winds that could see blizzard conditions in much of Labrador.

Alison Auld, The Canadian Press

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