Blizzard shuts down Island

Nancy MacPhee
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More snow expected on weekend

SUMMERSIDE – It started later than expected, but a blizzard met expectations Wednesday, shutting down much of the Island by midday.

Blizzard in Summerside

The storm was being predicted Tuesday by Environment Canada as being the worst storm yet of the season.

That warning was enough to prompt school closures Wednesday morning, when barely a snowflake could be seen. The University of Prince Edward Island and all Holland College campuses also closed.

By 8 a.m., cancellations were flooding in, with some businesses opting not to even open their doors despite normal weather conditions outside. By noon, all government offices, including all P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission outlets, closed for the day.

Snow began to fall throughout much of Prince County by late morning and winds picked up, making for tricky driving conditions early in the afternoon. In Summerside, there were reported white-out conditions along the waterfront and visibility was poor in most parts of the city.

By late afternoon, as the snow, light and dry in texture, continued and winds persisted, picking up speed, police issued warnings for Islanders to stay off roads.

At 7:30 p.m., city police were reporting poor driving conditions and that municipal plows were not out. No accidents were reported in the city throughout the day as a result of the storm.

At 6 p.m., the Confederation Bridge restricted certain classes of vehicles from crossing until high-winds died down. Those restrictions were still in place as of 8 p.m.

By 8 p.m., RCMP said there were no reports of any weather-related accidents in East Prince and no reported power outages due to the blizzard-like conditions. There was at least one accident in the morning in West Prince.

For the most part, said RCMP, Islanders were heeding warnings and staying off the roads.

“We’ve been pretty quiet,” said an RCMP representative. “I don’t think there are a whole lot of people out there.”

A Department of Transportation dispatcher reported at 7:30 p.m. that plows were still out on Island roads.

He did say that driving conditions were poor and deteriorating and getting worse, noting that one employee who made the trek from Summerside to Charlottetown indicated utility poles were often not visible for the drive.

Doug Mercer, with Environment Canada, said white-out conditions would continue for most of the night into the morning, as snow was expected to continue to fall until midnight, with accumulations of at least 30 centimetres.

Mercer, in an interview just before 8 p.m., said winds were forecast to gust 50 to 80 kilometres throughout the evening.

“We’re expecting another 10 centimetres at least for Prince County,” noting, at that time of the interview, about 20 centimetres had already fallen. “With the winds picking up, even if the snow tapers off, we are still going to have local blowing snow giving near zero visibility.”

For Prince County, it was expected that by midnight there would be some clearing.

“I would say early part of overnight will be nasty and into the morning there will be a bit of drifting a local blowing snow in areas, like narrow valleys where the winds will speed up a little bit,” said Mercer.

He said things likely won’t improve much throughout the day.

“The cold air is going to come over the water and it is going to start generating clouds that will bring flurries.”

There will be a break in the weather Friday, with westerly winds of 20 kilometres an hour and highs of only -13. Saturday will be cloudy with a low of -15 and a high of 1.

“It’s going to really jump,” said Mercer.

Sunday into Monday may see more messy weather, although Mercer didn’t want to divulge too many details of the system that is being tracked.

“Currently, we are forecasting periods of snow with a low of -3 and a high of -3,” said Mercer. “There will be a system on Sunday and then things will improve a bit on Monday, but not great. You’re getting into the north westerlies again, and a 60 per cent chance of flurries on Monday.”

So far, he added, this winter hasn’t been boring.

For storm coverage and updates, visit, follows us on Twitter -- @JournalPEI – or visit the Journal Pioneer Facebook page.

Organizations: Holland College, Environment Canada, RCMP University of Prince Edward Island P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission Department of Transportation Journal Pioneer Facebook

Geographic location: Iceland, Prince, Summerside East Prince West Prince.For Charlottetown

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