An ambulance driver was killed and part of a four-storey apartment building collapsed early Monday as Hurricane Juan smashed into Nova Scotia's most densely populated area.

No one was badly injured when a small section of the residential complex in Dartmouth, N.S. caved in. A few people were trapped, but rescue workers got everyone out safely. Hundreds of residents, many of them seniors, were taken to a temporary shelter set up at a local hockey arena.

In neighbouring Halifax, a paramedic was killed when an uprooted tree crushed an ambulance near a hospital.

Large sections of both cities lost power as the Category 1 storm, with winds of more than 145 km/h, hit just before midnight local time.

Hundreds of people living in low-lying areas around Nova Scotia's capital had moved to higher ground late Sunday, before the hurricane swirled ashore.

Halifax's mayor declared a state of emergency at 9 p.m. ADT, so that officials could force people to leave residences if needed.

Authorities had been worried that Juan would strike at high tide, causing major flooding. But they said the brunt of the storm would not arrive until a few hours later reducing the risk of a large coastal surge.

Nova Scotians had been told to brace for up to 80 mm of rain, high winds, blackouts and some flooding.

"All you can do is just pray," said one man as the storm approached. "It's pretty scary," said a woman, as she watched the waves grow by several metres.

"This will be arriving on the coast of Nova Scotia as a full-fledged hurricane," warned Peter Bowyer of Environment Canada earlier Sunday

Wind and heavy rainfall warnings were issued across mainland Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island and western and southern parts of New Brunswick were also expected to feel the effects of the storm.

Just before 3 a.m., power went off in a section of Charlottetown. A provincial election is scheduled Monday in P.E.I.

Juan's path shifted to the west earlier Sunday, leading forecasters to end wind and rain warnings for Cape Breton Island.

People in the Halifax area were told to batten down anything loose and stay indoors.

All flights in and out of the city were cancelled on the weekend until further notice. Passengers were advised to call their airline to find out when planes would be taking off and landing again.

Bowyer compared Juan to 1996's Hurricane Hortense, the first hurricane to make landfall in the province since Blanche in 1975. Hortense uprooted trees, knocked down power lines and blew out windows.

Juan, the fifth hurricane of the Atlantic season, started brewing late Thursday afternoon. By Friday, it had forced the cancellation of all flights in and out of Bermuda.