WESTCHESTER– Traffic is moving in both lanes of the Cobequid Pass.
Heavy snow closed the Cobequid Pass for several hours Wednesday following a collision involving four transfer trucks overnight. SUBMITTED
Heavy snow and slushy roads led to the closure of the east and westbound lanes of the Cobequid Pass between Thomson Station in Cumberland County and Masstown in Colchester.
RCMP closed the highway early this morning after vehicles became stuck near the toll plaza in both the east and westbound lanes.
The eastbound lane reopened mid-morning while the westbound lane opened around noon.
RCMP are still urging people to be cautious on the highway.
Const. Travise Dow of the Cumberland RCMP said weather conditions are still poor around the top of Westchester Mountain.
Crews from the Department of Transportation were on the scene this morning working to remove vehicles blocking the highway.
Robb Miller, who works at the Stanfield International Airport and lives in Oxford, has been stuck on the highway since about 5:30 a.m.
"From what I can see no one is going anywhere anytime soon," Miller said. "It's going to take awhile to clean up this mess."
Miller said he ran into snow at the bottom of the pass at about 5 a.m. Conditions worsened as he made his way to the toll plaza. He said he passed several tractor trailers stuck on the highway between Great Village and the toll plaza before coming to a stop.
"It's pretty boring actually, thankfully I have my cellphone with me and I've been talking to people on Facebook," Miller said.
Dow is not sure when the highway will reopen, but is advising motorists to stay away from the Cobequid Pass. Traffic is being rerouted through the Wentworth Valley.
Bruce Langille, a risk manager for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said the highway closure was a coming together of a perfect storm of sorts.
"The weather turned a lot faster than we anticipated. Our weather information systems were telling us it wasn't going to happen until much later. Sometimes Mother Nature plays tricks," Langille said. "There was no indication when we left the accident last night that this was going to occur.
"It was a high moisture snow that quickly gets back down by the large vehicles. When it happens, it becomes icy under their tires," he said.
One glitch that did occur, he added, was the overhead sign at the Oxford end of the highway was not working earlier this morning due to a power outage at the transportation office in Oxford. Power was soon restored and the sign illuminated warning motorists of the highway closure.
Plows and salt trucks were working the highway once the temperature dropped and rain changed to snow. He said remnants of last night's collision involving four tractor trailers reduced the eastbound section of the highway to one. That slowed traffic down and caused it to stop once the roads become snowcovered and slushy.
A similar incident in November 2007 led to the highway's closure for more than 12 hours, stranding hundreds of motorists on the highway. Langille said lessons learned from that experience are used on highways across the province, not just the Cobequid Pass.
The highway plan that came out of that incident was applied this morning.
"The point to be made is we have a highway closure plan and it's a holistic plan, not just for the Cobequid Pass but all 23,000 kilometres of highway. Since it was implemented after 2007 we have exercised it and updated it constantly so when this happens we're able to respond in a very efficient and organized fashion," Langille said.
The highway was closed for several hours last night after four tractor trailers were involved in a collision just before the toll plaza. Dow said the vehicles were travelling close together and ran into each other in heavy fog and rain.
There was one non-life-threatening injury in that mishap.
Dow said the highway was reopened to one lane overnight before being closed again when a couple of vehicles slid off the road causing traffic to back up.
"Once you had a couple of cars off the road it caused traffic to backup. Now we're trying to keep people off the road," Dow said.
All schools are closed in Cumberland County today.
Rain turned to snow early this morning, making travelling treacherous in blowing snow and slippery roads.
Just over 2,000 households in Cumberland County were also without power this morning.
The Confederation Bridge connecting New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is also closed to high-sided vehicles because of high winds through the Northumberland Strait.