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Blizzard warning and snow squall watches issued as bitter cold arrives in Maritimes

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A cold front ushering bitterly cold weather into the Maritimes has now finished crossing the region.

Temperatures are plummeting as Arctic-sourced air is brought in by an increasingly gusty west/northwest wind. Peak gusts are expected to reach 50 to 70 km/h Friday night through Saturday morning. Gusts as high as 80 km/h are possible on the coast and at higher terrain.

The strong wind combined with the cold air could produce wind chill values making it feel in the range of -35C to -45C. Such a wind chill can lead to an increased risk of frostbite on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less. Extreme cold warnings remain in effect for all three Maritime provinces.

A bitterly cold wind chill will last through Friday night and into Saturday.

The cold air running over open ocean waters is expected to create some snow squalls -- narrow, but often intense, bands of snow.

The intensity of the snow squalls depends on the temperature difference between the ocean water and the air above it. The colder that air is the more intense and lasting the squalls can be.

As the cold air moves into place, the risk of squalls is higher. Areas at most risk of snow squall activity Friday night through Saturday include southwest of Nova Scotia, Annapolis Valley into Truro, southern Colchester County, the North Shore, and Cape Breton. Kings County in P.E.I. and the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick could also experience snow squalls. While highly local by nature, squalls could produce amounts of 10 to 20 cm but over 30 cm in the Cape Breton Highlands.

Environment Canada issued a snow squall watch for the above-mentioned areas in Nova Scotia as well as Kings County, P.E.I.

Snow squalls are a risk where the cold wind blows in from over ocean waters Friday night and Saturday.

The Acadian Peninsula is under a blizzard warning, which doesn’t require falling snow, but instead calls for a more prolonged period of poor visibility created by blowing snow.

Blizzard warning criteria is four hours or more of a wind blowing 40 km/h or stronger, producing blowing snow -- bringing visibility down to 400 metres or less. Conditions in these areas should improve from Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Snow Squall Watches that are in effect are highlighted in yellow. A Blizzard Warning for the Acadian Peninsula where whiteout conditions are possible through Saturday is highlighted in purple.

Wind chill will also improve significantly from Saturday evening into Sunday morning as the wind eases. While Sunday will start cold, temperatures will moderate through the day as a southerly wind returns some milder air up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Snow is expected with the moderating temperatures on Sunday. The snow is expected to total five cm or less in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island where it may also mix with rain. New Brunswick could see some snow totals in the range of five to 10 cm.

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