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An employee from NB Power stands near displaced cottages in Upper Cape near Port Elgin, N.B., after a powerful storm pummelled the Maritimes over the weekend. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

East Coast residents are cleaning up after a powerful weekend storm that killed at least three people.

The storm in the Maritimes has since eased and warnings have been dropped for the area, which is now facing winds, light snow and rain over the next 36 hours.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said the storm tracked across Canada and had moved into Ontario by New Year's Eve. But by the time it hit the East Coast, it had picked up moisture and wind strength, and turned into a "weather bomb."

"A weather bomb is when you get a low-pressure system that all of a sudden strengthens dramatically," she said. "And that's exactly what happened when this low-pressure system just got to the coast and basically just picked up all of that water."

Over the weekend, Yarmouth, N.S., received about 65 centimetres of snow, with some areas of New Brunswick hit with close to 30 cm.

The snow was accompanied by powerful winds, knocking out power for thousands of people in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Hurricane strength

Grand Étang, N.S., recorded gusts of up to 163 km/h, which is equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.

An 83-year-old man who was found dead outside his Nova Scotia home Sunday likely fell and may have been caught out in the storm overnight, the RCMP said.

A 54-year-old man in Three Fathom Harbour, N.S., is believed to have succumbed to carbon monoxide fumes Sunday from a generator used for heat during a power outage and a woman died in Stratford, P.E.I., after being struck in a parking lot by a snow-removal vehicle.

Meanwhile, the residents of Port Elgin, N.B., were recovering from the storm surge that flooded the village and forced the evacuation of 25 families from their homes over the weekend. The southeastern New Brunswick village called a state of emergency Saturday.

Terry Murphy, who is also the village's emergency measures co-ordinator, said the weekend flooding was the worst that he's seen in the 62 years that he's lived in Port Elgin.

Murphy said he isn't sure if he'll be able to salvage anything from his cottage after the damage.

"It looked like Afghanistan, where somebody put a bomb there and just picked everything up and threw it all around," Murphy said.

"Cottages were opened up, buckled, destroyed. My brother-in-law's cottage, [the storm] tore the sun porch off, moved it back into a tree — it's destroyed."

Art Holmes, who owns a cottage at Indian Point near Port Elgin, said a friend called him to report the damage inflicted on his cottage.

Holmes said his cottage was pushed by the ice and water about 30 metres up the road.

"It was shocking. ... I figured I would get some water damage but I never figured anything like this," Holmes said.

Water in kitchen

In Cow Bay, N.S., Vernon and Betty Baker were assessing the damage to their home. They were about to settle in and watch a movie Saturday night when the ocean crept into their driveway.

Vernon moved the truck to higher ground, but soon realized the situation was getting worse.

"Three minutes later, I had eight or nine inches [20.3 or 22.9 cm] of water coming in across the kitchen floor," he said.

The couple decided to leave. Vernon said his wife had to wade through water up to her waist to get to the truck. He then went back into the house to shut off the power.

The Bakers stayed with their daughter in Cole Harbour.

Several other homes in the Cow Bay area were flooded. Some residents told CBC News they hadn't seen that much water on the street since Hurricane Juan in 2003.

The storm also wreaked havoc for travellers, making roads treacherous and causing flight cancellations and delays.