A much anticipated blizzard blasted through New Brunswick Wednesday, bringing most services and transportation to a standstill.

Snow and high winds associated with the storm system hit Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton. Environment Canada issued blizzard warnings for large swathes of New Brunswick and storm surge warnings along the Northumberland Strait.

Several roadways in southeast New Brunswick were closed, including a part of Highway 2.

As much as 40 centimetres of snow was forecast, with winds gusting up to 100 km/h. CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell says the wind will shift direction a bit overnight, but will retain its "fierce strength."

Mitchell said those winds are forecast to gust to more than 100 km/h for large parts of the Maritimes moving into Thursday morning. It may be late on Thursday before wind gusts drop below 60 km/h for much of the region, he said.

Emergency officials in New Brunswick urged motorists to stay off the roads and to be prepared for the risk of flooding and possible power outages.

The Emergency Measures Organization said there were reports of vehicles being abandoned along roads and called the conditions "treacherous." 

Whiteout conditions forced the closure of Highway 2 between Moncton and the Nova Scotia border and Highway 104 between Truro and the New Brunswick border.

Even the Department of Transportation pulled its plows from the Trans-Canada Highway, along Route 15, between Moncton and Shediac, due to whiteout conditions.

In Saint John, Highway 1, between Lorneville and Musquash, was shut down to both east and westbound traffic shortly after 6 p.m. "There are tractor trailer trucks stuck on the highway and visibility is near zero," said Sgt. Jay Henderson.

The Courtney Bay causeway was also closed to all traffic because of visibility concerns, he said.

"There are also reported vehicles stuck on city streets, including police vehicles, so we are requesting the public to not venture out unless absolutely necessary."

Saint John police are currently responding to emergencies only, Henderson said.

The driving is treacherous and walking isn't much better, said Saint John pedestrian Krystal Muir.

"Scary, couldn't see anything. Zero visibility," said Muir, who was out picking up a few groceries. "[My vehicle] got stuck three different times and I took four different routes to get here," she said.

Muir ended up abandoning her vehicle to walk to the rest of the way home. "Just around the corner," she said. "Hopefully the power stays on."

The province's Emergency Measures Organization notes several highways in eastern New Brunswick are closed, including: Highway 11 from Kouchibouguac National Park to Shediac; Highway 126 from Rogersville to Moncton; and Highway 16 from Aulac to Cape Tormentine.

Power outages

More than 4,600 NB Power customers were without power at 10 p.m., primarily in the Moncton, Rothesay and St. Stephen areas.

NB Power crews are positioned across the province, ready to deal with outages, said spokesperson Meghan Gerrish.

"We also have made contact with local contracting companies within New Brunswick to support in the event of large scale power outages. As well, we've put a call in with the North Atlantic Mutual Assistance group, which is a group of neighbouring utilities," she said.

As the storm system drew close to the province, cancellations began to mount. Schools, universities, municipal offices, NB Liquor stores and malls closed in different parts of the province.

Some drug stores, like Lakewood Guardian Pharmacy on Saint John's east side remained open, however.

"We're a pharmacy and with the health care profession, you really need to be open for people's health care needs. If people are sick, or going to the doctor or after hours clinic," said owner Diane Armstrong. "So we stay open, we'll try the best we can to stay open as long as we can."

Maritime Bus cancelled all of its runs for the day.

Public transit buses in Saint John and Moncton were pulled out of service early and the last Fredericton Transit bus was scheduled to make its last run from Kings Place at 5:15 p.m.

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Moncton residents are also being asked to refrain from parking on streets, even during the day, as near zero-visibility conditions will make it difficult for plow operators to clear streets effectively.

Bay Ferries cancelled its runs between Saint John and Digby, N.S. on Wednesday, as well as both scheduled runs on Thursday.

Flight cancellations are reported at airports in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John.

Higher than normal water levels are forecast from Miramichi Bay south to Cape Tormentine on Wednesday afternoon and night. Local flooding is most likely from Bouctouche to Cape Tormentine, said Environment Canada.

Storm surge warning

The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization is advising residents in low-lying areas to take precautions to protect their belongings. Those living near the coast should be on alert and be prepared to evacuate on short notice if safety becomes an issue, it said.

Residents are also asked to stay clear of shorelines. The weather conditions could lead to the erosion of coastal ice, which could be pushed ashore, the EMO said.

CBC meteorologist Peter Coade is predicting the southern part of the province will receive between 20 and 30 centimetres of snow, with wind gusts possibly reaching 100 km/h.

Coade expects the Fredericton area to receive about 10 centimetres of snow and the northeast of the province to get up to 15 centimetres. Those areas will see wind gusts up to 80 km/h.