A messy storm, believed to be the biggest blizzard to hit the region in several years, is barrelling toward the Maritimes and many organizations are making preparations.

Mattea Roach and her friend Rory Flynn are hoping to compete in a national public speaking championship in Winnipeg Saturday, but the impending storm has put a wrench in their plans.

“We've been preparing for a long time for this competition,” says Roach. “It's very disappointing not to go.”

“It's really frustrating,” says Flynn. “It's important that we get there, but what's even more frustrating is that the number to rebook is busy because everyone else is missing their flight as well.”

Friday day started off with a handful of cancellations and delays and flights continued to light up at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport as the day went on.

In the United States, 4,000 flights have been cancelled because of the weather.

Those who are staying on the ground are scurrying to stock up on food, fuel and supplies for the weekend.

“I'm buying a shovel for my daughter. She lives in Enfield. She's going to require a shovel for the storm,” says one Halifax resident.

J.P. Richards, who manages a Canadian Tire store in Halifax, says storm-related items are flying off the shelves.

“Business before the storm has been exceptional, selling a lot of shovels and anything to do with heating,” says Richards.

Nova Scotia Power’s emergency operations centre will open at midnight.

“There's going to be a lot of snow, there's going to be wind, we're expecting some action on the power grid, so we'll wait and see,” says Nova Scotia Power control centre director Paul Casey.

Officials at the province’s emergency measures organization is asking people to stay off the roads, while Halifax’s winter works superintendent says crews are doing all they can to prepare for the storm.

“With the magnitude of the snow, plus the blowing snow is going to present some challenges,” says Gord Hayward.

About 250 snow plows and graters are lined up and ready to go, along with extra staff to run them.

Halifax’s overnight winter parking ban is expected to remain in effect for several nights. Residents will be advised when it has lifted.

Metro Transit users are also encouraged to check bus and ferry schedules, which may be affected by the storm.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Felicia Yap