NEW ENGLAND — Frigid water poured into the streets of some coastal New England cities Thursday, as a bomb cyclone pounded the region with record-high tides and blinding snow.
“Stay away from the coasts,” the National Weather Service in Boston tweeted.
On Thursday afternoon, the tide gauge at Boston Harbor matched its record at 15.1 feet — previously set during the blizzard of 1978.
Video from a resident of Hull, just to the southeast of Boston, showed the icy mess inundating one street with water above the wheel wells of cars and coming up to the doors of homes.
The bomb cyclone, which developed overnight, occurs when a low-pressure system has a significant, rapid drop in atmospheric pressure.
That spells wind gusts as strong as 80 mph along the coast, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. It’s basically like enduring a Category 1 hurricane but getting blasted by snow.
In Quincy, Massachusetts, one street turned into an icy river.
More than 13 million people were under blizzard warnings, from Maine all the way to Virginia.
“The situation has continued to deteriorate,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as snow predictions in his state grew more dire. Now, millions of Americans are paralyzed by the storm — with thousands of flights grounded, hundreds of schools closed and grocery store shelves emptied.
“This storm is intense!” the NWS Boston office tweeted. “Expect the unexpected.”
• Massive snowfall expected: The projected snowfall for New York increased, with up to 10 inches expected in New York City and up to 12 inches on Long Island, Cuomo said.
Forecasters predict more than a foot of snow in Boston; up to 8 inches in New York City; and up to 6 inches in Philadelphia.
• Deadly conditions: At least 16 people have died this week due to severe weather, officials said. Six deaths were reported in Wisconsin, four in Texas, three in North Carolina, and one each in Michigan, Missouri and North Dakota.
• Travel nightmares abound: More than 4,000 US flights were canceled for Thursday, according to Flightaware.com. All flights from New York’s LaGuardia and JFK International airports were suspended. And American Airlines has suspended all departures from Boston.
• Going dark — with no heat: More than 46,000 customers don’t have power on the East Coast, according to utility companies in five states.
• Schools shuttered: At least 11 major school districts in the Northeast closed Thursday, including those in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Providence, Rhode Island.
• Stay home: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told residents too many people were getting their cars stuck. “We want to clear the streets.”
Governor: Power won’t be fixed in extreme winds
In Connecticut, Gov. Dan Malloy urged residents to stay off roads. The forecast calls for a minimum of 6 inches of snow and winds as strong as 50 mph, potentially hindering utility repairs should power lines go down.
“We cannot and will not order people up in trucks to fix lines when the winds are too high,” Malloy said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and urged residents to prepare for the storm, which could dump as much as a foot of snow in parts of eastern Virginia.
“With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for the travel disruptions, power outages and other threats to health and safety that could arise during this significant weather event,” McAuliffe said.
Record-breaking temperatures on the way
Dozens of cities are set to endure record-breaking cold, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
New York City and Philadelphia will plummet to 3 degrees this weekend. Boston will plunge to 7 degrees below zero — plus up to a foot of snow.
New York City sanitation workers are preparing to deploy 2,200 plows to help clear the streets. The snow, combined with “exceptionally strong winds,” means crews will be working in near-whiteout conditions, New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.
How bomb cyclones work
Bomb cyclones often draw colder air in from the north, then blast out icy temperatures.
They frequently occur in North America, when cold air collides with warm air over the Atlantic Ocean — though they’ve also been reported in eastern Asia and South America.
The bomb cyclone now blasting the Northeast actually doubled the rate necessary to earn it that classification.
It rapidly intensified overnight, undergoing bombogenesis — or a pressure drop of 24 millibars in less than 24 hours.
This bomb cyclone dropped 53 millibars in just 21 hours, intensifying faster than any such occurrence in recent history.