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Flights grounded as East Coast braces for winter weather blast

A furious whirl of winter weather has turned the map of Atlantic Canada red with warnings as howling winds bore tidings of snow, rain and surging seas.

The Halifax region was expecting heavy snow of more than 15 centimetres overnight and Monday, followed by heavy rain. Wind gusts were expected to rise to 70 kilometres per hour over the same period. It was much the same throughout Nova Scotia.

Blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of New Brunswick, where the worst-hit areas were expected to receive between 30 and 60 centimetres of snow.

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"In northeastern New Brunswick, the winds are going to be much stronger and it's also going to be a fair bit cooler," Doug Mercer, of Environment Canada, said Sunday.

"That'll make it easy for the snow to get aloft and basically they'll be getting near zero visibility and storm-force winds, so we're calling that one a blizzard warning."

Environment Canada said the storm was caused by a deepening low-pressure system moving north along the U.S. East Coast.

The storm disrupted travel plans for thousands of people in both Canada and the U.S. Sunday. Dozens of flights out of Toronto's Pearson Airport destined for the U.S. northeast were either delayed or cancelled. Airports in New England and elsewhere slowed almost to a halt. More than 1,400 flights out of the New York area alone were cancelled. U.S. airlines cancelled hundreds of flights scheduled for Monday.

A National Football League game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings was moved, before any snow had fallen, from Sunday night to Tuesday because of the expected heavy snowfall in Philadelphia.

Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino declared a snow emergency. And the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot-tall penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.

The bad weather is expected to persist in Atlantic Canada throughout the day Monday.

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Coastal areas were being warned that water levels would be higher than normal and would produce storm surges, while the high winds would result in rough and pounding surf. Parts of Cape Breton and Newfoundland were expecting winds of more than 100 kilometres per hour.

People all across the region were warned to stay off the roads and to prepare for worsening conditions.

"Localized flooding, rapid water level increases in streams and rivers, coastal erosion and power outages are possible," the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization said in a statement Sunday.

"People in low-lying areas should be prepared to move to higher ground. People should also be prepared to evacuate on short notice if safety becomes an issue."

It's the fourth major storm in as many weeks in the Atlantic region, where unusually heavy rainfall, strong winds and coastal storm surges have taken a heavy toll this month.

Roads and bridges have suffered serious damage, homes have been flooded, fishing gear has been destroyed and some wharfs and boardwalks have been pounded to bits.

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With reports from The Canadian Press and Associated Press

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