Blizzard warnings extend from the Virginia Tidewater region up the coast to eastern Maine, including Ocean City, Atlantic City, eastern Long Island, Boston and Portland, Maine. These locations have all witnessed extremely heavy snow, exceeding a foot in some locations, and wind gusts of at least 40 to 60 mph.
As the storm blossomed Wednesday and early Thursday with thunderstorms erupting around its comma-shaped center, forecasters expressed pure awe at the meteorological marvel. “Jaw, meet floor,” tweeted Sam Lillo, a meteorology PhD student. The storm expanded over enormous territory, even drawing moisture from deep in the Caribbean.
The National Weather Service warned the storm’s howling winds would likely result in power outages. On Thursday afternoon, several wind gusts of at least 70 mph were clocked in coastal Massachusetts, including around Nantucket
At the coast, major flood was reported in eastern New England as the ocean swelled ashore. The Weather Service tweeted Boston’s tide observation was nearing its highest level ever recorded (since 1921) early Thursday afternoon. It said it was getting “inundated with coastal flood reports…some of the worst in recent history.”
The fast-moving storm is expected to pass by Thursday night when the blizzard warnings will expire, but, in its wake, the mother lode of numbing cold is forecast to crash south — likely to be the last but most bitter in brutal blasts since Christmas Eve in the Northeast.
The storm: How much snow, wind, flooding, and where
Virginia Beach witnessed several hours straight of moderate to heavy snow and winds gusting to 50 to 55 mph Thursday morning, before letting up in the afternoon. Norfolk International Airport reported 10 inches from the storm.
In Atlantic City, meteorologist Joe Martucci reported snow “blowing and drifting at its finest” and “ amounts climbed to 16 inches in parts of South Jersey. Atlantic City International Airport posted 12.7 inches of snow at 1 p.m.
Heavy snow and winds gusting to 30 mph were blasting New York City, under a winter storm warning. Whiteout conditions temporarily suspended flights at JFK airport, where the wind gusted as high as 55 mph. Central Park reported 7.8 inches of snow at 1 p.m.
Near-blizzard conditions also hammered Providence, where heavy snow had fallen for seven straight hours with frequent wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph. 8 to 10 inches were reported on the ground.
Heavy snow and wind gusts to 40 mph began raking Boston late Thursday morning into the afternoon. At 1 p.m. Boston’s Logan Airport reported 6.5 inches of snow. To its south, at the Weather Service office in Taunton, 14.6 inches were measured through mid-afternoon.
As the wind and waves slammed into the shore in eastern New England, major coastal flooding was reported midday and early afternoon in eastern Massachusetts. In Scituate, Mass., social media video showed the ocean taking over streets.
The Weather Service cautioned the flooding could cause major impacts, inundating roads and basements. “In a few spots, sea ice chunks may exacerbate damage,” it said. Social media scenes provided validation of this threat:
The Weather Service warned residents to “stay away from the coastline and do not drive through flooded roads.”
Due to the rip-roaring winds, the Weather Service said it was particularly concerned about the power outage threat in eastern New England, especially considering the bitter cold predicted to follow the storm.
The cold in its wake: record-breaking
The storm’s enormous circulation will help draw several lobes of the polar vortex, the zone of frigid air encircling the North Pole, over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by Friday and Saturday. Wicked cold air sourced from Siberia, the North Pole and Greenland will all converge on the region.
Temperatures are forecast to be 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the coldest of the winter so far.
Most locations in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are predicted to set records for cold temperatures Friday and Saturday, with highs in the single digits and teens.
On Sunday morning, subzero cold is forecast over almost all of New England, with single digits in the Mid-Atlantic. New York City’s temperature may drop below zero for only the second time since 2000.
Winds, gusting to 30 mph, will make these areas feel 10 to 20 degrees colder.
Finally, after one of the most intense cold spells of such duration on record in parts of New England — including Boston — temperatures are forecast to gradually thaw by early next week.
A farmer feeds his cattle as a light snow begins to fall in Myersville, Md. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Washington braves the cold weather
Storm hits the South