A windstorm with gusts up to hurricane strength is expected to slam into the entire B.C. coast Wednesday morning.

Environment Canada issued a severe weather alert Tuesday for the coast and immediate inland sections, including Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

The "potentially damaging" southerly winds of 70 to 100 km/h could develop in and around Metro Vancouver and Victoria.

Northern Vancouver Island will be the hardest hit with gusts that times could reach 140 km/h, Environment Canada noted.

The gusts that devastated the woods near Stanley Park's Prospect Point in 2006 topped out at 158 km/h.

The winds will begin as southeasterlies early Wednesday morning as the low pressure system approaches off the Pacific and will peak in the late morning or early afternoon as the direction of the wind switches to the southwest.

B.C. residents can expect ferry disruptions and should prepare for power outages.

Cancellations are likely for ferry routes that cross Georgia Strait, said Deborah Marshall of BC Ferries.   "So that would be Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay, Comox-Powell River, as well as the Northern Gulf Islands," Marshall said. "I would imagine that [the storm] would affect our Port Hardy-Prince Rupert service as well."

BC Hydro spokeswoman Simi Heer said the utility will open new operations centres on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island during the storm and that contract crews were being put on standby.

City of Vancouver streets crews will be positioned around the city with chainsaws and other gear to help remove downed trees or limbs that block roads and sidewalks, the city said in a release Tuesday.

City electrical staff will also monitor traffic signals and will be ready to make repairs and maintain safety where possible. If electrical power is out in the area of a high-volume traffic light, staff will provide temporary power to traffic signals until service is restored, the release said.