ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) — The capital of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador declared a rare state of emergency Friday as blizzard conditions descended on the city and residents prepared for an intense storm expected to last into Saturday.
Officials in St. John's ordered businesses closed and vehicles off the roads. The nearby towns of Mount Pearl, Paradise, Torbay and Portugal Cove-St. Philip's followed suit shortly afterwards.
Environment Canada issued blizzard and wind warnings for much of Newfoundland and said strong winds and blowing snow might cause whiteout conditions until Saturday in some places.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada's public safety minister was in touch with provincial authorities and monitoring the storm. “We're ready to help if needed." he said on Twitter.
Local taxi company Jiffy Cabs said in a tweet that it was pulling vehicles off the roads for the ``first time in our company history.''
St. John's officials urged people to prepare emergency kits with enough supplies to last for at least 72 hours.
Residents were warned to expect 40 to 75 centimeters (16 to 30 inches) of snow. At midday, 33 centimeters (13 inches) had been recorded at St. John's International Airport since 5 a.m., said Environment Canada meteorologist David Neil. He said 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) fell within two hours.
``It's been very nasty in St. John's so far and it's expected to just continue,'' Neil said from Gander, Newfoundland.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said its officers were on call and available to respond to emergencies in St. John's. A spokesman advised people to stay off the roads if possible and prepare for power outages, keeping flashlights, food and water on hand.
``This is an unprecedented kind of event. This is easily on pace for a record snowfall,'' Constable James Cadigan said.