Kent Peters of Dream Stables in Albert Bridge, Cape Breton, was busy clearing several feet
© Joe PembrokeKent Peters of Dream Stables in Albert Bridge, Cape Breton, was busy clearing several feet of snow from the riding facility's barn roof on Sunday. Peters and his wife, Deanna Peters, have been caring for 38 horses throughout a powerful winter storm that is currently hitting northeastern Nova Scotia
People in Nova Scotia are digging out after a historic multi-day snowfall slammed the province, with many schools across the province closed Monday and Cape Breton Regional Municipality under a local state of emergency.

Parts of Cape Breton Island had received more than 86 centimetres by Monday morning, prompting officials to ask residents to stay off the roads.

Cape Breton Regional Police Const. Gary Fraser said the force received more than 550 calls for service over the weekend, including 30 car accidents and "many many many stranded motorists and abandoned vehicles."

"So a lot of people didn't heed the warnings and stay off the roads," said Fraser, adding that road conditions were still "terrible" on Monday morning.

"Please be part of the solution, not the problem. Stay off the roads."

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said the seven-day state of emergency gives the municipality the authority to control or prohibit travel and to authorize qualified persons to provide aid.

She said Monday will be a "telling day" in the cleanup effort, and she's worried about buildings that may have structural issues.

"There's so much snow on top of roofs that this could be potentially dangerous," said McDougall.

Guy Deveau, executive director of maintenance and operations with the provincial Department of Public Works, said crews are seeing "metres of snow" being blown around, and some equipment is breaking.

The situation is snowier and windier as you move east in the province, he said. The department is moving crews and equipment into eastern parts of the province Monday to ramp up snow removal.

Deveau said while the 100-series highways are technically passable, officials are recommending people stay home.

"We are having lots of challenges out there," he said, adding that some portions of the 100-series highways are down to one lane. "If we don't have units across them very frequently, they do fill in with snow."

RCMP closed Highway 102 north in Goffs on Monday morning after a tractor-trailer jackknifed across all lanes of the highway. The highway reopened later in the morning.

Fire crews were also busy battling a structure fire in Sydney on Monday morning, said Fraser.

"Eight people were living there and managed to get out. So there's eight people that will be displaced until they can find another place to live," he said.

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said many in the province are calling to mind a February 2004 storm dubbed by locals as "White Juan," a nor'easter blizzard that dropped more than 100 centimetres of snow on some areas of Atlantic Canada — five months after Hurricane Juan caused widespread damage in the Maritimes.

"It's safe to say this is the most historic winter storm to hit Nova Scotia since White Juan in 2004," said Snoddon.

He said depending on final official numbers, this may be the largest multi-day snowfall event for the Sydney area since Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, 1992, when 102 centimetres fell at Sydney Airport.

Flights grounded

Leah Batstone, a spokesperson for Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said blowing snow has been the big issue grounding flights.

She said 70 flights were cancelled over the weekend, but flight departures and arrivals were expected to ramp back up on Monday.

More than 7,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without power Monday morning, from Lunenburg to Cape Breton.

All Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education and Strait Regional Centre for Education schools and worksites are closed Monday. Halifax Regional School Board has also closed all of its schools while Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the province's French school board, has closed some of its schools.

"Staffing may be a bit of a challenge this morning as people dig themselves out," said Batstone.