HALIFAX -- Airlines cancelled flights in anticipation of an intense winter storm that edged into the Maritimes Tuesday with expected heavy snow, high winds and pounding surf in coastal areas.

Environment Canada issued a slew of warnings for the Maritime provinces, with up to 25 centimetres of snow expected in some areas starting late Tuesday afternoon and persisting into Wednesday.

The national weather forecaster was also predicting potentially damaging high winds that could gust up to 110 kilometres an hour along coastal areas of Nova Scotia.

Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard said the storm was centred southeast of Cape Cod at midday and was slowly tracking towards Nova Scotia and the rest of the Maritimes.

"All of the weather out ahead of it will be affecting the region later (Tuesday) and overnight," said Hubbard. "This is going to impact all three provinces."

Higher than normal water levels and pounding surf could also cause flooding in coastal areas during high tide.

Hubbard said New Brunswick would get the bulk of the snowfall from the system.

"Snowfall amounts in New Brunswick are ranging from 20 to 25 centimetres with this event, possibly as high as 40 centimetres for some areas with blowing snow as well," he said.

Hubbard said the first snow flurries were recorded shortly before noon at the Yarmouth, N.S., airport.

NB Power was reporting almost 2,000 power outages as midnight approached.

Cancellations at Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Fredericton International Airport were already piling up hours before the first snowflake fell.

The Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and P.E.I. also warned of possible restrictions on traffic later in the day.

Nova Scotia Power had set up an emergency operations centre on Monday evening to deal with storm-related power outages, which numbered around 55,000 homes and businesses by midnight.

In a news release Tuesday, utility official Matt Drover said the storm would create challenging conditions for power crews.

"In Halifax and central Nova Scotia, many of the impacts will happen over tonight," said Drover. "We have crews ready to respond during the night time hours, but the bulk of work won't be able to begin until tomorrow, given the expected track and timing of the storm."

Drover said in high winds crews would need to make case-by-case assessments of whether it is safe to be up in buckets in order to repair any damage.

He said Nova Scotia Power had deployed 200 powerline technicians and work was continuing to bring in additional external crews, "as they become available."

Environment Canada was also calling for high winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour in Newfoundland on Wednesday.

The storm is the third winter wallop to hit the Maritimes in as many days.