HALIFAX — Canada's East Coast is in the crosshairs of an intense winter storm, with forecasters warning the system could be stronger than a Christmas Day blast that left more than 150,000 customers without power in Nova Scotia.
Environment Canada said a major winter storm was expected to barrel into New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on Thursday, with snow, blowing snow and rain likely to be accompanied by strong and possibly damaging winds.
Linda Libby, meteorologist with the national weather forecaster, said the storm was expected to form Tuesday off the eastern U.S. and would intensify as it tracks towards northward towards the Maritimes.
"This looks to be a fairly intense storm," said Libby on Tuesday. "It's a big enough, strong enough storm that it's going to have impacts around the region, so travel could be affected."
Libby said snow and rainfall amounts will depend on the storm's track, but up to 30 centimetres of snow could fall in some areas, while southwest Nova Scotia could see roughly 30 millimetres of rain.
She said strong winds were expected in Nova Scotia, especially as the storm moves away from the province Thursday night or Friday morning. Wind gusts of up to 120 kilometres are possible along the Atlantic coast.
Atlantic Canada was blasted by stormy weather around the Christmas break, and lashing winds caused widespread power outages in Nova Scotia.
"This storm looks to be on par or possibly stronger than the one we saw on Christmas Day," said Libby.
Nova Scotia Power said a total of 158,000 of its customers lost power over that period.
Tiffany Chase, a spokeswoman for the utility, said there was a "high risk for power outages" later this week, and an emergency operations centre was set to open Wednesday evening.
"We're encouraging customers to be prepared for potentially lengthy power outages as a result of this storm" said Chase.
"Our crews will be stationed around the province in advance of the storm and be ready to respond as quickly as it's safe to do so."
The New Brunswick government was also warning of possible power outages and deteriorating travel conditions, with up to 25 centimetres of snow expected in most areas of that province.
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Tuesday for much of Newfoundland, warning of strong winds and snow that will change to rain Thursday night and Friday morning.
Meanwhile, many parts of the country were experiencing extreme cold on Tuesday.
An extreme cold warning covered several areas of New Brunswick, where it was expected to feel like minus 35 into Tuesday morning — part of what Environment Canada called a "multi-day episode of very cold wind chills."
Much of southern, eastern and northeastern Ontario were also under extreme cold warnings, with wind chills in the minus 35-40 range expected into Tuesday morning.
The agency also said cold air and brisk winds would keep the wind chill between minus 35-44 in western and central Quebec through Tuesday morning.
Extreme cold warnings were also in effect overnight for northern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan where it was expected to feel about minus 40.
The Canadian Press