A nor’easter has begun hammering the East Coast with a ferocious mix of howling winds, drenching rain, some snow and surging waves.
The storm, with about 80 million people in its path, could knock out power and flood some neighborhoods along the Atlantic coast Friday and Saturday.
As the high tide advances, authorities are warning coastal residents to be ready to evacuate.
“Take this storm seriously! This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast, especially those ocean-exposed shorelines,” the National Weather Service in Boston tweeted.
Like the nor’easter in January, this storm could undergo bombogenesis — or become a “bomb cyclone” — by dropping at least 24 millibars of atmospheric pressure in 24 hours. Some forecasters predict a sudden pressure plummet Friday evening off the Atlantic coast.
Here’s what to expect:
Even if the storm doesn’t become a “bomb cyclone,” New York’s eastern Long Island and Boston will feel its effects.
With the moon full, the tide is at its highest point of the month, and the storm surge could drive as much as 4 feet of water into coastal neighborhoods.
The storm is moving slowly, and the wind, rain and flood effects will linger for days. Parts of eastern Long Island and eastern Massachusetts could get up to 5 inches of rain through Saturday. The rest of the region could see 2 to 4 inches of rain.
“Mostly minor and some moderate flooding is expected in southern New England and New York on Friday and Saturday,” the National Weather Service said.
High tides are expected in Boston on Friday and Saturday, along with wind gusts as strong as 65 mph, Mayor Marty Walsh said.
“I encourage all residents to be mindful of the storm and encourage employers to take the weather into consideration, which will mostly impact the coastal areas of our city,” Walsh said.
Massachusetts emergency officials said tides “will be astronomically high” in the next few days. Boston Harbor, which has only seen tides above 15 feet twice — in 1978 and in January, during the bomb cyclone — is expected to see the tide at that level three times during this storm, CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said.
In New Jersey, officials are also expecting heavy rain to flood some rivers and streams, affecting drainage.
“If you are told to evacuate from a flooded area, GO!” the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management said.
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Any snow that falls will be heavy and wet, likely to bring down trees and power lines, and cause power outages.
Inland New England is more likely to get snow, with a foot possible in upstate New York and western Massachusetts.
“Snowfall amounts of 12 to 18 inches are expected in New York, with even higher values in central New York,” the National Weather Service tweeted.
Major coastal cities in the Northeast will get rain, with little to no snow accumulation forecast. The biggest threats there are hurricane-force wind gusts and flooding, Jones said.
Winds will be so ferocious that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is securing cranes at a LaGuardia Airport construction project. It’s also making plans to use buses if trains at JFK or Newark airports must stop because of wind.
In Boston, high wind warnings are in effect from Friday to Saturday morning. New Jersey officials say high winds may affect trees and power lines.
In Washington and Baltimore, wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph are expected. Officials in the nation’s capital activated a hypothermia alert and urged homeless residents to take shelter. Federal offices around Washington didn’t open Friday and trash collection was suspended.
Strong winds will affect several states, from South Carolina to Maine.
About 1,500 flights involving US airports are canceled, flight tracking website FlightAware.com posted Friday.
Several airlines, including Delta, United and Southwest, are offering fee waivers for flight cancellations or changes involving airports in affected cities.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s called in the National Guard.
“Do not ride out the storm if you are told to evacuate,” Baker said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated his state’s emergency operations center and urged residents to pay attention to weather forecasts.
“As the saying goes, March is coming in like a lion, and we are preparing for heavy snow, rain, and flooding across New York this weekend,” he said. “I am asking for everyone to … take the necessary precautions to prepare for conditions.”
In New Jersey, officials activated a state emergency operations center and urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel.