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This time, Atlantic provinces expected to be spared hurricane’s wrath

People wade and paddle down a flooded street as Hurricane Sandy approaches, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Lindenhurst, N.Y. Gaining speed and power through the day, the storm knocked out electricity to more than 1 million people and figured to upend life for tens of millions more.

Jason DeCrow/AP Photo

For once, Yarmouth, the tiny town on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, may be spared the wrath of a hurricane.

In a departure from the norm for fall storms, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not the story for Hurricane Sandy.

Instead, Sandy has its sights set on New Jersey, Manhattan, Toronto and other parts of Ontario and Quebec. So Harold Richardson, the volunteer emergency management co-ordinator for the town and municipality of Yarmouth, is planning on sleeping pretty well.

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"We're just in a monitoring mode and we don't see a whole lot coming our way, some wind and some rain," said Mr. Richardson, who is retired and has been volunteering in this position for 12 years. "We don't really see a big problem for our end of Nova Scotia anyway."

In other years, Mr. Richardson, who does his monitoring from home in front of a laptop computer and television, has had to issue evacuation orders as storms swept through. "They seem to like us," he said.

In September, 2010, Hurricane Earl hit Yarmouth and beyond, bringing heavy rain and destructive winds and causing one death. It knocked out power to about 100,000 residences in Halifax and 250,000 residences in the Atlantic region and a small part of Quebec.

In September, 2003, Hurricane Juan clobbered the Halifax area and Prince Edward Island, causing at least eight deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. It was the worst storm to hit Halifax since 1893.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre, which has been tracking Sandy for the past week, said Monday that the worst-case scenario for the Maritimes would be high waves in southwestern Nova Scotia and from 50 to 100 millimetres of rain. The rain could cause problems if it comes in one big burst, but for now it appears it will fall over a one- to two-day period from late Tuesday to Wednesday.

"So we're not expecting big issues with that," said Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre, which is based in Dartmouth, N.S.

Sandy is unique for its "sheer size," Mr. Robichaud told reporters. It was travelling toward land Monday with winds of 150 kilometres an hour at the centre of the storm, but the winds extend out more than 1,000 kilometres, he said.

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"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."

The storm is also expected to whip up the water, generating waves of up to seven metres in Lake Huron. The Quebec Storm Prediction Centre issued storm-surge warnings for pounding waves in the Gaspé and north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement that the military and the Canadian Coast Guard are on standby. He added that Health Canada is conducting generator checks and has reviewed the National Emergency Stockpile, which contains supplies such as beds, blankets and antibiotics.

Mr. Richardson, meanwhile, has been watching the waves – on Monday afternoon he was tracking waves of only eight feet high, 160 kilometres off the coast. This compares, he said, to last week when he tracked some waves at 22 feet high.

"Yeah, we've been pretty fortunate here," he said. "It doesn't look like it's going to be too bad." He's had a few phone calls from concerned citizens, but checking with his counterpart in a nearby county, he has concluded that "we'll be all right, for now."

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"We'll see tonight or tomorrow morning," Mr. Richardson said, noting storms are unpredictable.

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