Deadly U.S. winter storm sweeps through Atlantic Canada

The monster winter storm that encased the U.S. Southeast in ice and dumped incredible amounts of snow over parts of the eastern seaboard is sweeping through eastern Canada today, spreading a wintry mix of weather from Ontario to Newfoundland and blasting powerful winds through the Maritime provinces.

This storm, named 'winter storm Pax' by forecasters in the United States, started its trek through eastern Canada on Thursday afternoon. Weather warnings issued by Environment Canada advised of heavy rain through Nova Scotia and a winter storm mix of rain, freezing rain, ice pellets and snow through New Brunswick and PEI, all driven by powerful wind gusts up to around 100 kilometres per hour. Snowfall amounts reached up to around 30 centimetres between Fredericton and Saint John before the rains moved in afterward.

This same mix of wintry weather is pushing across Newfoundland today. Heavy snow, blowing snow and powerful wind gusts are expected to last throughout the day, with the snow switching over to freezing rain and then rain. Wind gusts are likely to reach up to 120 kilometres an hour, but will be even stronger, up to around 160 km/h in southwestern parts of the island. Schools and businesses are closed across the island today as residents hunker down until the storm passes.

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To the west, the heaviest snowfall tracking up from the U.S. pushed into southern Quebec and eastern Ontario overnight. Several centimetres of snow are on the ground already this morning and forecasts are calling for up to 15 centimetres east of Montreal, around 30 centimetres along the St. Lawrence Valley and even up to 60 centimetres through Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.

The nearly 300-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada highway east from Quebec City to Edmundston, NB remains closed this morning after being shut down due to the storm conditions. Other highways that branch off from the Trans-Canada through the region have been closed as well. Several flights to and from airports in the region have either been delayed or cancelled entirely. Snowfall and winter storm warnings are cautioning residents that "these winter storm conditions could make travel impossible."

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Following the path of its predecessor, Leon, Pax had already spread ice storm conditions throughout the southeastern states, before moving up the east coast to deliver around 50 to 70 centimetres of snow across most of the eastern and northeastern United States. Widespread power outages were reported due to ice bringing down power lines and tree branches through Georgia and the Carolinas. However, due to preparations before the storm arrived, cities like Atlanta were able to avoid a repeat of the chaos they endured with the last storm. Snowfall amounts were heaviest along a swath through western Virginia and Maryland, but cities like Washington and New York, along with parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania still saw between 20 and 30 centimetres fall by Friday morning.

The storm is being blamed for up to 21 deaths throughout the eastern United States, and portions of the storm-affected areas, including parts of Georgia and South Carolina, have been declared federal disaster areas.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

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