Heavy rains, strong winds and high waves are expected to lash central and eastern Canada starting Monday night as hurricane Sandy churned toward land.
It is headed for New Jersey, but Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes will feel the effects of the unusually large storm. The hurricane is on course to collide with two other weather systems that would create a superstorm.
Most of the effects of hurricanes and tropical cyclones that are felt in Canada are typically more localized, but the sheer size of this storm makes it different, said Canadian Hurricane Centre spokesman Bob Robichaud.
"Usually a tropical system is a bit more compact than this and it doesn't affect quite as large an area," he said.
"This particular system is going to affect everywhere from southern Ontario, even into northern Ontario, and all the way to the Maritimes."
Canadian Hurricane Centre spokesman Bob Robichaud said the western Maritimes will see the most rain, with between 50 and 100 millimetres predicted from Tuesday into Wednesday.
Southern Ontario won't be quite as water-logged, with 30 to 50 millimetres of rain expected, but in that region wind will be the biggest concern, as Sandy will bring about 90 to 100 kilometre-per-hour winds, Robichaud said.
Those winds will also whip up the Great Lakes, generating waves of up to seven metres in Lake Huron, he said.
Utility companies in Ontario were preparing for the onslaught of the storm by having crews ready to respond to any calls about damage. Emergency Management Ontario warned the storm may result in flooding, road closures and power failure. It said people should put away any objects that can be blown away by wind, such as garbage lids and Halloween decorations, to prevent damage or injury.
As of 11 a.m. ET, the storm's eye was situated about 415 kilometres southeast of New York City.
Hundreds of flights leaving from airports across Canada bound for the U.S. East Coast were cancelled. At Toronto's international airport, one-quarter of all of its flights departing Monday were cancelled.
Airlines advised travellers to check the status of their flight ahead of time.
Sandy was blamed for more than 60 deaths as it churned across the Caribbean.
In the U.S., thousands of people from Maryland to Connecticut were ordered to leave low-lying coastal areas, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City, 50,000 in Delaware and 30,000 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the city's 12 casinos shut down for only the fourth time ever.
President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, authorizing federal relief work to begin well ahead of time.
Authorities warned that New York could get hit with a surge of seawater that could swamp parts of lower Manhattan, flood subway tunnels and cripple the network of electrical and communications lines that are vital to the nation's financial centre.
Major U.S. financial markets, including the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and CME Group in Chicago, planned a rare shutdown Monday. The United Nations also shut down.
Photo: Alex Brandon (Associated Press)