A blizzard swept over P.E.I. Wednesday after a slow start, shutting down government and most businesses, including nightclubs that used to be packed on storm days.
“Year’s ago, when it was storming, the bars in Charlottetown used to be full,” said Gordie Cameron, co-owner of Jack Cameron’s Nightclub and Eatery in Charlottetown. “When I came back to work last year, I was away from the business for five years, and the first snowstorm I was expecting a big crowd and nobody came.
“It’s been like this all winter, so tonight we are closing,” said Cameron. “It’s more of a safety thing nowadays, I guess.”
Cold temperatures leading off the morning daylight hours Wednesday at -11 degrees, rose slightly to spend most of the day at -8 but wind gusts also increased as the day progressed.
“At East Point the winds are gusting up to 82 kilometres per hour,” said Doug Mercer, meteorologist at the Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre of Environment Canada in Dartmouth, N.S.
“Kings and Queens (counties) got it harder,” he said. “The further west, the less you got.”
His records showed 27 centimetres of snow at the Charlottetown airport, the only data the centre had at the time of The Guardian’s telephone call.
“Snowfall storm total (at) Elmwood PEI (15 kms West Ch'town) as of 9:00 p.m. (was) 33.8 cms,” wrote Bill Jameson on his PEI_Stormchaser Twitter account.
There is another storm, a weak low pressure system heading towards P.E.I. in the long range forecast, said Mercer.
“This isn’t definitive but basically for most of Saturday it’s going to be OK, but late Saturday you are going to start getting some flurries in the evening,” he said. “Then you may get a switch over to rain in the eastern part of the province and snow in the west.”
It could turn all rain, or all snow depending on the eventual track of that far-off storm, with strong winds from the southeast, but not to the storm force strength of Wednesday.
Mercer predicts on-shore flurries most of Thursday, then cold but sunny Friday.
Through most of the storm Wednesday the Confederation Bridge remained fully open until 6 p.m. when it had to restrict high-sided vehicles.
Plows kept roads open but wind-driven snow made travel dangerous.
“Our plows are still out, but the only problem we are having is the visibility,” said Jack Devine, Queens County snowplow dispatcher late Wednesday. “It’s almost nil.”
Plows were never called off the roads because of conditions, but were off the secondary roads about 8 p.m. Wednesday for a rest to allow resumption of plowing around 2 a.m. today.
By 3 p.m. Wednesday, RCMP on the Island issued an advisory to stay off the roads because of whiteout conditions. It was advice that seemed mostly well taken.
“We had somewhat of a relatively quiet day, in a way, despite the road conditions deteriorating quickly in the afternoon,” said Cpl. Martin Roy of the RCMP.
About 3 p.m. there were two accidents along the same stretch of Route 2 in Milton on the outskirts of Charlottetown, one involving a Maritime Electric truck that slid off the road during an accident with an on-coming car.
There were no serous injuries in either accident.
“It was just whiteout conditions and driving conditions were just really poor,” said Roy.
The sidewalks on Queen Street as well as many areas of Charlottetown were deserted Wednesday afternoon.
©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis