Environment Canada forecaster Tracey Talbot said the storm will begin early Wednesday morning in southern Nova Scotia and bring whiteout conditions across the region through the day.
Talbot said the possibility of damage is real because a storm surge will bring rising waters along the coastlines of Nova Scotia and northeastern New Brunswick — in some cases 50 to 80 centimetres higher than normal, with strong waves driving the sea into shore.
"That is definitely something we have to keep an eye on, especially if it coincides with high tides," Talbot said Tuesday.
"With the storm surge we're expecting, we could see some flooding and some local infrastructure damage."
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen MacNeil urged people to prepare.
"Look after your neighbours," he said. "If there are people in your community ... that are living alone or are elderly or needing some support, make sure you keep in touch with them to ensure that everyone weathers the storm."
Up to 40 centimetres of snow is expected to fall in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and southern New Brunswick, she said.
Prince Edward Island is expected to see particularly powerful gusts, with winds expected to reach 110 km/hr. The province's Office of Public Safety is advising Islanders to prepare for the possibility of power disruptions.
"Snow and ice buildup on tree branches, rooftops and utility lines can lead to dangerous conditions with breaking branches, downed utility lines and possibly power outages," the office said in a news release.
The storm is expected to continue in the late afternoon and early evening into southern Newfoundland, where winds will also be intense but less snow is forecast.
Gordon Hayward, the manager of winter operations for Halifax, said the storm will likely take the city over its $20 million annual budget for snow removal.
Hayward said it's not uncommon for snow removal crews to be out clearing the streets late in March, but he doesn't recall similar forecasts of such snow accumulation and wind speeds this time of year.
"Getting up to 40 to 50 centimetres of snow would be very unusual," he said.
"If you don't have to be out there, stay off the road. It's not going to be fun, it's not going to be pretty."
Neera Ritcey, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Power, said the utility is watching for a combination of heavy, wet snow and wind and is deploying repair crews around the province.
"We're ready to respond as needed," she said.
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