UPDATED: Possible Nor' easter headed this way, weather agency warns

Published on January 20, 2014
Ivan Gallant, a sales representative at Callbeck’s Home Hardware in Summerside, restocks the supply of shovels in anticipation of Wednesday’s storm. A representative of the business said the weather in December quickly dwindled shovel, salt and snow blower supplies, which have now been replenished.
Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE — Dig out that shovel and fire up the snow blower.

The winter storm is getting ready to wallop the Island, bringing with it high winds, cold temperatures and, depending where you live, up to 20 centimetres of snow.

The result will be reduced visibility and whiteout conditions.

“We are looking at a weather system moving up the U.S. East Coast, from North Carolina, that will be approaching us Tuesday night and on the day Wednesday,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Linda Libby, who is classifying this latest storm as a Nor’easter.

“This system, right now, all the computer models are keeping it well off shore so it looks like it will be purely a snow system for here, in Prince Edward Island, and Southern New Brunswick as well.”

In Kings and Queens counties, the storm is expected to see snowfall amounts of 15 to 20 centimetres while, in Prince County, it will bring with it 10 to 15 centimetres.

“That is going to be in combination with some strong winds. There won’t be extreme winds, but we are looking at winds of 50 to 70 kilometres per hour,” said Libby. “The other thing with this system is because the system is well off south of Nova Scotia when it crosses the Maritimes here our temperatures are not going to be as warm as they had for some of our weather systems.”

That, she explained, results in what she called “drier” snow.

“It will be more apt to blow and drift. It is the combined effect of the wind and snow that will be of the highest concern for Islanders,” said Libby, who added snow and high winds would continue throughout the day into the evening Wednesday. “It is not a fast-moving system, where it is only half a day or so. It looks like it could be potentially a 12 hours where it has some impact on the Island.”

With those conditions, the storm could be bumped up to a blizzard, she cautioned.

“Right now we are keeping an eye on it. It is hard to judge right now if it will be a blizzard or not versus a blowing snow event,” said Libby. “It is really a matter how low does the visibility get and there is a period of time it has to persist at that low.

“When we are talking a blizzard, we are talking very, very reduced visibilities for at least four hours.”

She said the week traditionally tends to be the coldest of winter across the country.

“This is the week I usually look forward to getting past,” Libby said with a laugh. “The further away from this week, the warmer it gets and the better conditions get.”

Temperatures were expected to drop to -16 degrees Celsius overnight Monday with a low Tuesday of -12 degrees Celsius.

“Wednesday, with the approaching weather system, it will be -14 in the morning, but the high for the day, even though that weather system is bringing some warmer air with it, will only be up to -5,” said Libby. “After that… we are looking at highs of only -10 and possibly some warmer air behind that system on Friday.”

‘That system’ she is referring to will see more snow dumped on P.E.I. Friday.

“That one is showing less wind and less snow. But, of course, you get into that pattern where you get snow and a couple of days later more snow and another day and then more snow,” said Libby. “It is not as bad as the pattern we saw before Christmas where we had all that snow and people were getting very tired of it. But it is something really typical for winter.”

So far this month, 56 centimetres of snow have fallen on the Island. The highest snowfall amount for January was recorded in 1975, with 144.3 centimetres and the lowest was 15 centimetres. On average, 74.2 centimetres fall on the Island during the first month of the year.