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CINDY DAY: Sheila, put down your broom!

Sweeper trucks are used at the Gander Airport to clear snow from the runways and taxiways. A brush is located at the rear of the machine to clear debris, in addition to a blower that pushes snow away.
Sweeper trucks are used at the Gander Airport to clear snow from the runways and taxiways in this file photo. - Clarence Ngoh

Did you ever notice that Atlantic Canadians like to name their snowfalls? We have the Sugar Snow, the Smelt Snow, the Robin Snow and of course, Sheila’s Brush. Last week after yet another nor’easter barreled into the region, you could hear a chorus of people saying “please tell me this is Sheila’s Brush!” Well, it was not. According to Newfoundland weather legend, a winter storm that comes shortly after St. Patrick's Day is known as Sheila's Brush.

Sheila is related to Patrick in some way; depending on the version of the legend, she might be his wife or sister or mother or mistress or even his housekeeper. It’s believed that the snow that comes after March 17 is stirred up by Sheila brushing the old season away on St Patrick’s Day.

There was a storm that proved the truth of this legend 10 years ago. It was St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2008 when the second of two powerful back-to-back storms roared across the province. Schools and businesses were shut down. In St. John's, even public transit was pulled off the road. Roads were completely blocked by snow. Gander saw 120 cm of snow - about a quarter of its average annual snowfall in about a week.

The legend of Sheila's Brush is not to be taken lightly. There are some Newfoundlanders who firmly believe in this and won't head out until they know Shelia's Brush storm has passed.

I’m watching a very interesting weather system that started to take shape along the California Coast several days ago. It’s showing signsof intensifying as it crosses the continent, tracking towards the eastern seaboard. It has the makings of a good old fashion March nor’easter…aka, Sheila’s Brush!

Cindy Day is chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network. Get your regional forecast at

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