It's clear emergency officials see Hurricane Dorian as a significant threat.

Halifax is already encouraging people in coastal areas to leave their homes.

"We're asking them now to self-evacuate," said Erica Fleck, Halifax's chief of Emergency Management. "If we had to order an evacuation, we would do a state of local emergency the mayor and council would order that under their authority and we will look at that tomorrow as we assess the storm."

Three emergency shelters will open at noon Saturday. One in Dartmouth, one in Clayton Park, and one in St. Margaret's Bay.

The provincial and municipal governments are activating emergency plans.

They've already announced plans to suspend and cancel some public services tomorrow.

NATO warships designed to withstand the harshest conditions left Halifax harbour before Dorian hits.

"We expect that the storm will continue to accelerate over the next few hours into (Saturday) and approach the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia probably late (Sunday)," Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre said on Friday.

Dorian's damage is expected to be significant.

"We are going to get uprooted trees, we are going to get broken trees, flooding, of course, when we get rainfall amounts that exceed 20 millimetres per hour which is very possible with this, almost likely, that overwhelms many systems and you tend to get flash flooding."

Anything on or near the water is at risk.

"There will be no cruise vessel calls in Halifax over the next two days," said Port of Halifax spokesman Lane Farguson. "We were also seeing some changes to the cargo schedule as well. In some cases the cargo ships are arriving a little bit earlier so they can get out."

Crews were busy pulling up the floating docks and tying everything else down on the Halifax waterfront.

The NATO ships left Halifax on Friday, but won't go far.

"The biggest concern is wave height," said Royal Canadian Navy spokesman Matthew Bowen. "We want to get them into sheltered waters where there isn't going to be large waves. They plan to stay close enough in case they're needed."

Dorian's impacts are wide and far reaching.

Transit and ferry service in the Halifax Regional Municipality are being shut down as of noon tomorrow. The Tancook Ferry in Lunenburg County is also cancelling trips tomorrow until Sunday at 5 p.m.

On Friday, people across the Maritimes were also busy making their own preparations for the storm.

There were lineups for things like propane and gasoline and the aisles of some grocery stores are filled with carts piled high.

The lineup for propane at Costco in Bayers Lake stretched across the parking lot -- with some waiting more than an hour.

Fummi and Akin Odeniti were stocking up on supplies ahead of Hurricane Dorian's arrival.

"We are here to shop because we heard about the hurricane coming and this is our first experience," said Fumni Odeniti.

Said Akin Odeniti: "It's more or less like panic buying. You know, you don't know what the hurricane is going to look like."

Many stores were packed, with people looking for everything they need to ride out the storm.

For many, shopping and getting fuel were just some of the things on their to-do list, before Dorian makes landfall.

"Right now, I'm just picking up a few supplies and when I get home, I'm going to put everything away off my deck," said Sharon Degroot. "I think BBQ season is about over, yeah, I'll get that all tied down, take my pretty flags down that I've got hanging up and that kind of thing."

Halifax Water says emergency operations will be open 24 hours a day during the storm. They don't expect any issues, but says people should still be prepared.

"Just be ready for a storm that might knock out water service or wastewater, stormwater service for up to 72 hours," said James Campbell of Halifax Water. "We don't anticipate there will be a loss of water service, but folks should always be prepared for that eventuality."

Dorian is expected to start impacting the Maritimes on Saturday.

"I'm not concerned at all," Parks said. "Everybody seems to be prepared and by the looks of everybody out here, they're getting prepared so everybody should be safe."

With everybody thinking of how to prepare and protect themselves, Mearie Boudreau was thinking of others.

"I'm worried about all the people that haven't anybody around to look after them or go to see how they're doing," Boudreau said. "My priority is trying to help other people."

With files from CTV Atlantic's Amy Stoodley and Natasha Pace.