Preparations underway as first major winter storm approaches Nova Scotia

Ahead of the major winter storm that's expected to sweep into Nova Scotia early Thursday, Nova Scotia Power is readying its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at 8 p.m. tonight, January 3.

"Weather forecasts are calling for heavy wet snow followed by high winds across the province, beginning early Thursday morning," said Matt Drover, Nova Scotia Power's storm lead, in a release from the utility company.

"In preparation, we're stationing powerline crews and forestry teams across the province, and we're staffing up our Customer Care Centre."

The EOC is the nerve centre for outage restoration planning and response and is staffed with employees representing all aspects of the company.

"We will be ready to respond to customer outages as quickly as it is safe to do so," Drover said. "Based on the current track, we expect this storm to cause power outages across the province.

"The forecasted snow may make travel difficult, and could impede crews in early response to outages. We encourage people to monitor their local weather forecasts and make preparations accordingly."

The utility company's preparations came after a Christmas Day storm that left some 158,000 people without power across the province. The bulk of those who lost power were on the South Shore, where many remained in the dark and cold for three days while NS Power worked to restore service.

Environment Canada is calling for "dangerous wind gusts causing widespread damage."

The weather forecaster predicts that a low pressure system will develop east of Florida today and then intensify rapidly into a major winter storm Wednesday night and Thursday as it approaches the Maritimes. This storm will move into the Gulf of St. Lawrence Friday morning.

Winds from the east are expected to hit 100 km/h, while "over-exposed areas near the coast" could see wind speeds as high as 110 to 140/km/h. The strongest gusts are predicted to be over southwestern areas of the province.

Snowfall, with total amounts of 15 to 25 cm is expected.

Environment Canada says a period of heavy snow is forecast before changing to rain Thursday afternoon. In addition, very strong easterly winds gusting up 100 km/h will give very poor visibility in blowing snow inland for a short period of time before temperatures rise to the freezing mark or slightly above.

Nova Scotia Power encourages customers to plan for their safety. Some tips include having an emergency kit that includes flashlights, a battery-powered radio and fresh water, ensuring backup generators are installed properly outdoors, and charging electronic devices.

If you lose power, turn off and unplug electrical equipment, such as televisions and computers to prevent damage when power is restored. Visit www.nspower.ca/stormready for a full list of safety and storm preparedness tips.

In situations where there are multiple power outages, Nova Scotia Power restores power in phases to ensure critical services like hospitals can stay open before beginning work in other areas. Larger outages on transmission lines and in substations are restored ahead of smaller outages to restore electricity to the greatest number of customers. The phases are as follows:

Phase 1 - Restoration of public safety issues and emergency situations

Phase 2 - Restoration of NS Power critical infrastructure such as transmission lines and substations

Phase 3 - Restoration of Emergency Management Office (EMO) critical infrastructure such as hospitals, shelters, and essential provincial and municipal services

Phase 4 - Restoration of main electrical feeders servicing communities and neighbourhoods

Phase 5 - Restoration of branch power lines servicing individual homes and businesses

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