12/07/2011 11:46 EST | Updated 02/06/2012 05:12 EST

East Coast 'Weather Bomb' Knocks Out Power

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Pounding rain, high winds and the threat of heavy snow are causing power outages, school closures, ferry shutdowns and a rare total closure of Confederation Bridge in the Maritimes.

In Nova Scotia, more than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday afternoon as hurricane-force gusts toppled trees and even a tractor-trailer.

Police closed Sydney's downtown shopping district because of flying debris.

In Dartmouth, police issued a warning to people to stay away from the downtown because of the danger of items falling off buildings.

All ferries from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland are tied up.

Confederation Bridge closed at about noon and remained totally shut down for about an hour and a half. It remains closed to high-sided vehicles. This is only the ninth time since Confederation Bridge opened in 1997 that it has closed to all traffic. Wind gusts on the bridge were measured at 136 km/h.

Environment Canada said to expect gusts of 100 kilometres per hour or more in almost every county of Nova Scotia, P.E.I., northern New Brunswick, and the west and north coasts of Newfoundland.

There were just under 8,400 power outages in New Brunswick as of mid-afternoon.

In P.E.I., 4,300 customers were without power at the peak of the storm, that went down to 1,600 by mid-afternoon.

Snow in N.B.

As well as the high westerly winds, northern New Brunswick is expected to see an estimated 20 centimetres of snow.

School Districts 5 and 15, which cover the English and French schools in northern New Brunswick, cancelled classes. The provincial government has cancelled its French Immersion public consultation session in Campbellton.

The northern city of Bathurst has had about 16 centimetres of snow fall in the last 24 hours.

CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell warned that the high winds would pick up in the afternoon.

"Just crazy winds out there because those winds are coming out of the west and northwest direction, the temperature is going to be dropping as we head in towards this afternoon," he said.

'Weather bomb'

Mitchell said the storm is a "weather bomb."

Marine Atlantic has cancelled all ferry crossings from western Newfoundland to Cape Breton due to high winds in the gulf. Customers are being advised that they should contact the company for updates.

The ferry is tentatively scheduled to resume crossings on Friday at 11:30 a.m., according to the company.