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Winter storm wallops Maritimes, causing gridlock and power outages

Traffic was snarled and power customers left in the dark Wednesday as a storm swept through the Maritimes, packing powerful winds, heavy snow and rain.

Transport officials in Nova Scotia say a toll highway notorious for sudden snow squalls was blocked early in the day when several tractor-trailers got stuck on a hill approaching either side of the toll booth plaza.

Motorists were advised to avoid the Cobequid Pass, which is along one of the highways that links northern Nova Scotia with New Brunswick.

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Pam Menchenton, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's Transportation Department, said matters were made worse by the fact that automated message signs along the highway malfunctioned when the storm moved through.

Both lanes on Highway 104 were eventually reopened after crews cleaned up the mess.

Traffic was also tied up on the Canso Causeway linking mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton after a vehicle overturned.

Some vehicles were being escorted across the causeway by Wednesday evening, but officials were asking drivers to avoid the area until conditions improved.

As well, the Confederation Bridge was temporarily closed to high-sided vehicles, motorcycles and cars pulling trailers as winds whipped the region and pulled down power lines, causing power outages in all three Maritime provinces.

Emergency officials in Newfoundland and Labrador advised residents to be cautious around coastlines as forecasters warned of winds gusting up to 120 kilometres an hour into Thursday.

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