The Emergency Measures Organization is advising New Brunswick residents to be prepared for a major winter storm that hit the province Thursday afternoon and is expected to continue into Friday.

Heavy snowfall and strong winds are likely in most of the province, with possibly a mix of snow and rain in southern regions.

Hazardous driving conditions are expected and power outages are possible.

Travel disruptions have already started with airports in the region reporting delays and cancellations and the Princess of Acadia ferry crossings between Saint John and Digby Friday afternoon and Saturday morning being cancelled.

The Francophone North West School District has also announced schools will be closed on Friday due to the weather.

Most areas are expected to receive 20 centimetres of snow, but some regions could receive more than 40 centimetres, advises EMO.

Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for most of the province, advising that 25 to 35 centimetres of snow is possible.

Rainfall warnings have been issues for the Fundy Coast areas of Saint John and Charlotte County, advising that 30 to 50 millimetres of rain is possible.

"Snow from this system will reach Southern New Brunswick this afternoon and spread north tonight," states Environment Canada. "The snow will change to rain over southern regions overnight and to freezing rain and ice pellets over central and eastern regions early Friday morning."

Wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres an hour are also in the forecast.

The low pressure system, which already swept through the southeastern United States, leaving 17 dead and cutting power to half a million homes and businesses, is expected to intensify as it moves toward the Maritimes.

"It now looks like the centre of the storm will move across southern New Brunswick overnight tonight — pretty much along Highway 1 then out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence by Friday afternoon," said CBC meteorologist Peter Coade. "This track is important mainly in determining wind direction and areas of heavier rain and freezing rain."

Road crews ready

EMO warns that snow and high winds bring a risk of power outages and hazardous driving conditions.

"Travel should be restricted during the storm and motorists should check road conditions before travelling after the storm," states a news release from EMO.

The Maritime Road Corporation, which operates and maintains the four-lane stretch of highway between Fredericton and Moncton, is ready, said general manager Ross Mathers.

Twenty trucks will be on the road at any given time, he said.

"We'll have the regular guys out, supplemented by some call-ins, and then on Friday we'll be calling in a second line of guys. So we have two shifts, basically. And they'll be working until it's all cleared up."

Crews started preparing ahead of the storm, putting down a layer of brine mixture, said Mathers.

Once the driving gets messy, truck and plow operators do what they can, but it's up to the public to stay safe on the roads, said driver Derek Barton.

"We see people that will go by us doing 100, 110, and they really just have no idea what they're facing," he said.

Memories of ice storm, power outages fresh

For many New Brunswickers, memories of the December ice storm that cut electricity to one third of NB Power's customers, leaving some without heat or lights for up to 10 days, remain fresh.

The EMO says it's ready to swing into action if that happens again.

NB Power says all of its line repair crews are ready to go if required. The utility has also reached out to tree-trimming companies and line contractors in case extra resources are required, officials said.

Emergency officials are also advising New Brunswickers to be prepared with a home emergency kit.

"We're asking people to be ready to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours," said Paul Bradley, of the Department of Public Safety.

"A number of basic things come in an emergency kit, like batteries, food, water, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, that kind of thing. Anything that's essential to you every day really should be in this kit," he said.

Retailers that sold out of generators, portable heaters and kerosene during the ice storm, say they're also prepared.

At the Canadian Tire on Smythe Street in Fredericton, new stock is displayed right by the entrance, ready for quick pickup.

Store manager Noella MacDonald says they don't want a repeat of the last storm.

"We weren't even getting it off the truck and down to this point in the store," she said. "People were just grabbing for it and asking, you know, 'Is this spoken for?' And it's like, 'No, take 'er, go.' Cause, like I said, we weren't really prepared as well as we are this time."