East coast braces for winter storm as Air Canada, WestJet update their travel alerts

East coast braces for winter storm; Air Canada, WestJet update travel alerts

HALIFAX — Air Canada and WestJet have expanded their weather advisories for passengers flying in and out of a long list of airports as forecasters warn that the winter storm bearing down on Canada’s east coast could be stronger than a Christmas Day blast that left more than 150,000 customers without power in Nova Scotia.

Meanwhile major theme parks in Florida have temporarily closed their water parks as the frigid temperatures blanketing much of Canada and the U.S. reach all the way south to Florida.

Environment Canada says a major winter storm is expected to barrel into New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI on Thursday, with snow, blowing snow and rain likely to be accompanied by strong and possibly damaging winds.

Linda Libby, meteorologist with the national weather forecaster, said the storm was expected to form Tuesday off the eastern U.S. and would intensify as it tracks towards northward towards the Maritimes.

“This looks to be a fairly intense storm,” said Libby. “It’s a big enough, strong enough storm that it’s going to have impacts around the region, so travel could be affected.”

Libby said snow and rainfall amounts will depend on the storm’s track, but up to 30 centimetres of snow could fall in some areas, while southwest Nova Scotia could see roughly 30 millimetres of rain.

She said strong winds were expected in Nova Scotia, especially as the storm moves away from the province Thursday night or Friday morning. Wind gusts of up to 120 kilometres are possible along the Atlantic coast.

Atlantic Canada was blasted by stormy weather around the Christmas break, and lashing winds caused widespread power outages in Nova Scotia.

“This storm looks to be on par or possibly stronger than the one we saw on Christmas Day,” said Libby.

Nova Scotia Power said a total of 158,000 of its customers lost power over that period.

Tiffany Chase, a spokeswoman for the utility, said there was a “high risk for power outages” later this week, and an emergency operations centre was set to open Wednesday evening.

“We’re encouraging customers to be prepared for potentially lengthy power outages as a result of this storm,” said Chase.

The New Brunswick government is also warning of possible power outages and deteriorating travel conditions, with up to 25 centimetres of snow expected in most areas of that province.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Tuesday for much of Newfoundland, warning of strong winds and snow that will change to rain Thursday night and Friday morning.

Meanwhile, many parts of the country were experiencing extreme cold on Tuesday.

An extreme cold warning covered several areas of New Brunswick, part of what Environment Canada called a “multi-day episode of very cold wind chills.”

Much of Ontario and Quebec are also under extreme cold warnings, and extreme cold warnings were also in effect overnight for northern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan where it felt like about minus 40.

Air Canada has issued travel alerts for Jan. 4 with snow or extreme cold temperatures advisories for some 24 airports in Canada and the U.S., including Baie Comeau, Bathurst, Boston, Charlottetown, Fredericton, Gander, Gaspé, Halifax, Hartford, Jacksonville, Moncton, Mount Joli, Montreal, New York (EWR and LGA), Ottawa, Quebec City, Saint John, Saint John’s, Sydney, Toronto (YYZ and YTZ), Deer Lake and Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

The airline is advising passengers that flights in and out of these airports may be impacted by winter weather conditions and subsequent Air Traffic Control restrictions.

The airline has revised its ticketing policy for customers booked on affected flights, to facilitate changes to bookings. Passengers wishing to make alternate travel arrangements can do so without penalty, space permitting.

Air Canada is reminding passengers to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, or call Air Canada’s automated flight information system at 1-888-422-7533.

WestJet’s winter storm system alerts apply to Deer Lake / Cornerbrook / Gander / St. John’s (Jan. 4), Boston (Jan. 4), the New York region (Jan. 3 – 5) and Halifax / Fredericton / Moncton / Sydney / Charlottetown (Jan. 4 – 6). WestJet is advising all passengers travelling to or from the impacted airports to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.

Brutal winter weather that’s brought subzero temperatures to parts of the U.S. is threatening to dump snow and ice across areas of the South that rarely see flurries, much less accumulation.

In the U.S., the National Weather Service said a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain was expected to hit today mainly along the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to North Carolina. It warned that icy roads and low visibility could make driving treacherous across the region.

In central Florida, the state’s largest theme parks announced that water attractions such as Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay and SeaWorld’s Aquatica were closed Wednesday because of the cold snap.

 

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press