"White Juan" Redux

"Three storms in one week is kind of unusual."

The three snow storms that hit Atlantic Canada with a wallop over the past eight days are a weather rarity, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada says.

David Phillips told globeandmail.com that while there have only been two other incidents in the past 50 years in which there were three major snow storms in a one-month period, the one currently attacking Atlantic Canada is even more of an anomaly because the three storms came almost on top of each other over an eight-day period.

"Three storms in one week is kind of unusual."

The first blizzard hit the Maritimes last Monday, followed by another on Thursday and another – an Alberta clipper – on Sunday, dropping a total of about 93 centimetres of snow in the Halifax area (including smaller accumulations in between the storms).

Mr. Phillips said he could not find any evidence of so many storms in Atlantic Canada in such quick succession. Looking back in the record books, he found that there were only two other years in which there were three storms that dumped 20 centimetres or more of snow in one month – March, 1993, and January, 1981.

"What is surprising about the storm yesterday is it comes from Canada. Alberta clippers can bring us some unusual kinds of weather, but they don't normally bring a lot of snowfall," he said. "The amount of snow, because the air is so cold, you don't get the huge dumps."

He said the large amounts of accumulation usually come when storms originate in Texas or Arkansas and tap moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

The accumulation from the storms in Halifax over the past eight days is still less than last February's blizzard in Halifax, dubbed "White Juan" after the hurricane that hit that area in fall of 2003. That snowstorm dumped 95 centimetres of snow in a very short time.

Mr. Phillips said that, with the winds, cold weather and accumulation and poor visibility, "it probably was the nastiest day of the year yesterday."

Unfortunately for Halifax, he said, it must endure a lot of storms because it is in a storm track, no matter whether they come from Alberta, Colorado or Arkansas,

"They always seem to come through Atlantic Canada, and they'll die up near Iceland. There are not many storms in North America that avoid the Maritimes. They do get hammered quite often."

If storms go south of Nova Scotia, the province gets snow. If they hit up north of the province, they will often get rain and freezing rain, he said.

Although winds in Nova Scotia had dropped to about 60 kilometres an hour on Monday and visibility is down to one kilometre, Mr. Phillips said the storm centre is now in Cape Breton en route to to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mike Myette, the deputy director of the Emergency Measures Organization in Nova Scotia, told globeandmail.com Monday that everyone besides non-emergency staff was being asked to stay at home.

All government offices, many businesses and most schools are closed across the province.

Mr. Myette said the storm has caused the usual number of stalled cars and treacherous road conditions but that there have not been any major accidents.

"The fact that it hit on a Sunday was fortunate," he said.

The Alberta clipper that hit Halifax on Sunday was the same one that hit Toronto over the weekend, dropping 15 to 20 centimetres of snow in downtown Toronto and less outside of the city.

"Most of it fell if you were living near the lake [Lake Ontario]," Mr. Phillips said.

In Toronto, a cold weather warning was extended on Monday until Wednesday, encouraging people to take shelter.

Blizzard warnings remained in effect for parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and all of Newfoundland, which was taking the brunt of the bad weather as the day began.

”I thought our roof was going to come off,” Kitty MacLeod said from her home in Summerside, PEI. ”It's still blowing like mad. We can't get out our front door and the plows aren't moving at all.”

Most flights in and out of Halifax International Airport were cancelled and scores of businesses, including shopping malls, were closed until at least noon.

Many surgeries and out-patient services were cancelled at the region's largest hospital – the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

The Trans-Canada Highway linking Nova Scotia to New Brunswick was closed between Sackville, N.B., and Amherst, N.S., and the RCMP reported a number of stranded motorists in the area.



It's COLD out here!



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