ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Forecasters issued blizzard warnings for parts of eastern and southern Newfoundland on Thursday as people prepared for heavy snowfall and winds gusting to 120 kilometres an hour.

Schools in St. John's closed early as people braced for a blizzard one meteorologist said was unusual for the amount of snow it would bring.

"This one's going to have a lot of punch," Herb Thomas of Environment Canada said from Gander, N.L.

"We don't often see snowfall amounts of 60 to 70 centimetres. And most of that snow is falling within 24 hours."

Some schools on the province's south coast also closed early.

The closures came after Environment Canada issued blizzard warnings for the region, with snow expected to fall through the day and wind picking up later in the evening.

Thomas said blowing snow could create near-zero visibility in some areas of southern Newfoundland and the Avalon Peninsula.

He said winds on the Avalon could gust to 120 km/h by Friday morning.

Police urged people to stay off the roads, while St. John's officials said residents should prepare for possible power outages and keep emergency kits.

"I think we have all learned a lot since Hurricane Igor struck in 2010 and the time to prepare for an emergency is long before it ever happens," St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said in a statement.