Schools closed, flights cancelled, buses taken off the road as snowstorm sets in

As the winds picked up and the snow began to fall on eastern Newfoundland in Tuesday morning, the closures began rolling in. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District closed all schools on the Avalon Peninsula, Bonavista Peninsula, Burin Peninsula, and other areas around eastern Newfoundland around 6 a.m. 

In St. John’s, Metrobus pulled its drivers off the road, citing weather conditions. An update was promised for later in the day. At St. John’s International Airport, all flights coming and going were cancelled on Tuesday. Early flights for Wednesday are also cancelled.

“There’s pretty much a closed sign on the Avalon,” said CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler. “So just enjoy Valentine’s Day inside with the snow blowing and try to stay off the roads.”

Most of eastern Newfoundland and the south coast are expected to feel the brunt of the storm, with between 30 and 45 centimetres of snow in the forecast between early Tuesday morning and Wednesday at noon. Winds are expected to gust around 80 km/h, with peak winds reaching 100 on the tail end of the storm.

A boat is anchored next to a wharf, with heavy snow blowing across the water limiting visibility.
Visibility was limited on Tuesday morning as high winds threw snow around. This was the scene on Harbour Drive in St. John’s. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

Brauweiler said the snow will turn to freezing rain around noon before switching back to snow again heading into Wednesday. That window might provide time to begin cleaning up some of the snow before it sets in again.

Conditions will improve slightly when ice pellets replace some of the snow falling. Once the snow sets in again, visibility will be drastically reduced.

“We could see as high as 50 centimetres in some areas. But really it’s a widespread event,” she said. “We’ve got winter storm warnings as far west as Gander, Bonavista North and also the Connaigre Peninsula.”

Other notable closures include:

  • Memorial University. 
  • College of the North Atlantic.
  • Academy Canada and Eastern Academy.
  • Keyin College (Bay Roberts and St. John’s), with classes moved online.
  • Eastern Health services, including breast-feeding support groups in Placentia, C.B.S. and Paradise; vaccination clinics at Mount Pearl Square; the Mundy Pond walk-in clinic.
  • Doorways counselling services in St. John’s, which will offer services online or by phone only. Patients can call 709-752-4903 to arrange a phone or video session.
  • Most liquor stores on the Avalon Peninsula.
  • Association for New Canadians locations in St. John’s, Clarenville and Gander.
  • All courts in St. John’s.
  • City of Mount Pearl facilities.
  • City of St. John’s facilities and Chillfest events before 3 p.m. (update at 11 a.m.).
  • Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism.

SWAT team on deck

While everyone else was hunkering down for the day, Deanne Power and her group of big rig drivers were waiting to be called into action.

Power is an administrator with the Severe Weather Assistance Team — or SWAT. The group was formed with a goal of transporting essential workers to and from their workplaces on days when buses and taxis aren’t running.

Power said the group came together before Snowmageddon in 2020 but the historic blizzard and ensuing state of emergency solidified their purpose. 

“The one objective is to transport essential workers to and from work so that people can get home to their families and people can get to work to replace them,” she said.

Tuesday could be a busy day for their 20-30 volunteer drivers, all of whom drive modified vehicles like Jeeps or pickup trucks. Power said they first have to ensure all other means of transportation are grounded, so as to not take business away from local companies.

“It could be a very busy day for whoever is available to drive,” she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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