ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – It was a savage day, as some Newfoundlanders would say, with record snowfalls that delayed mail, cancelled classes and even took public transit buses off the road.
The southeastern Avalon Peninsula was hit with almost 30 centimetres of snow measured by early Thursday afternoon at the St. John’s International Airport.
In a city used to punishing weather, it was a wild one that broke the previous November snowfall record of just over 25 centimetres on Nov. 19, 1980.
“This one was pretty severe because it shut down the biggest city in the province,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Herb Thoms.
“That doesn’t happen often — especially when they’re taking the transit buses off the road. That’s pretty significant.”
Classes at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s were cancelled, schools and small businesses shut down, some banks were dark, and the winding, steep streets of the historic downtown were quiet and slushy for much of the day.
Public transit buses were temporarily parked until after lunch when service resumed.
“It has definitely had an impact on the city,” said Const. Jennifer Clarke of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
“Most people, unless they have a reason to leave their homes, they’re staying in. But a lot of people are just out and kind of enjoying it as well. A lot of people love this kind of weather, so they’re out walking around with their shovels and helping each other.”
Clarke said there were reports of minor accidents and she advised residents to stay off the roads if possible.
“For our first snowfall of the year, this is definitely bigger than what we’re used to.”
Thoms said the wintry wallop was due to a low-pressure system that first moved through New England and Nova Scotia.
There were wind gusts of almost 60 kilometres an hour at the St. John’s airport, and 100 km/h at Cape Race, N.L., he said.
Another few centimetres of snow were expected for the region by evening as the temperature hovered around -2 C.
The early blast of winter followed a non-summer through much of southeastern Newfoundland that was colder, foggier and wetter than usual.
The storm wasn’t bad for some people. Kelly Jones owns Britannia Teas and Gifts in downtown St. John’s, where business was steady on such a blustery day.
“Some people were wishing more stores were open,” she said. “The weather changes so much here that, you know, from time to time we’re like: ‘Oh my God, the weather!’ But nothing surprises me.”
City workers were out in force salting roads, sidewalks and steep stairways.
“Most of the city has been shut down today, which gives us lots of space to do our work,” said Colin Clarke, a municipal outdoor worker.
“We’re trying to get it back in order for everyone in the morning.”
For other people, it was a chance to take part of the day off.
Emily Trim, who works downtown, left a bit early to hit the stores that were open.
“The other workers didn’t make it in so I got to have a chance to get some Christmas shopping done, which was much needed.”