01/10/2013 06:10 EST | Updated 03/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Blizzard sweeps into Newfoundland

Southern and eastern Newfoundland is in the midst of a blizzard that threatens to wallop the region with as much as 75 centimetres of snow over the next day.

Early Thursday, the Eastern School District pre-emptively closed its schools on the Burin Peninsula for the morning, with St. John's schools closing for the afternoon session.

Provincial government offices in St. John's and Mount Pearl closed at 3:30 p.m., and Metrobus terminated service as of 6:00 p.m. Memorial University's St. John's campus, as well as the Marine Institute, are also closed. Many flights are cancelled at St. John's International.

Utility crews with Newfoundland Power scrambled to restore power to customers in the east and had lights back on by around 11:30 p.m. But further blackouts were expected overnight and into Friday morning. Residents were urged to prepare emergency kits in the event of outages.

A number of accidents have been reported on the Trans-Canada Highway, as visibility and conditions worsen.

People stock up on supplies

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said high winds will likely make the blizzard ferocious. Winds are expected to surpass 110 km/h by Friday morning in some communities, with visibility expected to be reduced if not eliminated for the blizzard's duration.

"This is going to be a full-on storm tonight and right through the day tomorrow," Snoddon said, adding that roads will be "an absolute mess" by Thursday evening and will likely get worse by the time winds peak early Friday morning.

"It's going to be a nasty day. There's no other way to put it."

By Saturday, Snoddon said the snow will give way to showers, leading to water-logged "heavy bricks of snow" to shovel Saturday morning.

St. John's has already changed its shifts to provide round-the-clock service during the blizzard and its cleanup.

Public works director Paul Mackey said the blizzard appears to be powerful, and that dealing with the snow will be a challenge, particularly on Friday morning.

"Stay home if you don't need to be out," Mackey told CBC News on Thursday, adding that the priority will be on keeping main thoroughfares open.

"It may be a while before some streets see a plow."

Word of the storm sent people running for supplies to local stores on Wednesday and Thursday, with long lines reported at supermarkets. Some stores were struggling to maintain fresh goods, including milk and eggs.

"It's been picking up and picking up and we can't keep bread on the shelves at all," said store manager Debbie Hussey.

Supplies of some foods had already been a bit tight, as poor weather in recent days has affected the ferry service and the ability of trucks to reach warehouses and supermarkets.