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Forecasters expect hurricane Sandy to bring wild wind that could topple trees and heavy rain capable of flooding parts of Eastern Canada beginning Monday night.
Environment Canada issued a tropical cyclone advisory for southern Ontario, southern Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as the 1,600-km-wide storm surged toward the U.S. East Coast.
High winds and pounding waves were already rocking southern Nova Scotia Monday afternoon, and are expected to get worse.
Southwestern Nova Scotia saw gusts of 60 km/h Monday and waves off the province's southern shore were nearly 3 m high. Waves are expected to grow to 7-9 m by the evening.
During an afternoon briefing, Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre said the eye of the massive storm is expected to make landfall in New Jersey Monday night. Low-lying cities along the New Jersey coast and parts of New York City were already flooded Monday afternoon and power was knocked out to about 170,000 homes and businesses on the East Coast.
North of the border, Environment Canada said it expects the storm to change into "a large and intense post-tropical cyclone." The worst of it is expected to hit overnight in southern Ontario and around the St. Lawrence River Valley in Quebec.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford advised residents to make sure they have flashlights, candles and food in case of a power outage. He urged people to avoid driving if possible.
"Take care of your families first and look out for your neighbours second," Ford said at a press conference.
Toronto Hydro said it will have emergency power repair crews on standby overnight to fix power outages.
Canadian airports cancelled hundreds of flights to New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre said southern Ontario residents should expect 30-50 mm of rain, while the western Maritimes could see as much as 100 mm Tuesday and Wednesday.
Winds could pick up to 100 km/h in southern Ontario Monday night, especially along western Lake Ontario and the Niagara region.
Freezing temperatures in south-central Ontario and western Quebec could bring snow, Environment Canada said.
The storm could cause large waves — up to 7 m high — in the Great Lakes, particularly southern Lake Huron. Large waves are also forecast for the shorelines Gaspe, Que.
Flood warnings were issued for Quebec's St. Lawrence River Valley.
Rain and wind should taper out Wednesday night as the storm weakens and heads east, the hurricane centre said.
On Monday, 17 people aboard the HMS Bounty abandoned ship off the coast of North Carolina due to high seas, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement. Two crew members were unaccounted for as of Monday afternoon.
About 375,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes and businesses in New York City, and the city shut down its public transit and schools Monday. The U.S. stock markets were closed Monday and expected to be closed Tuesday.
— With files from Don Peat and Reuters