For the second time this year, a powerful nor’easter tore up the Atlantic coast with a brutal storm surge and destructive winds. Heavy snow generated whiteout conditions on roads and some estimates suggest around 2 million customers lost power.

  • The worst coastal flooding will come during high tides, and the storm will last through Saturday’s high tides
  • Wind gusts hit 93 mph in the Northeast
  • More than 24 inches of snow plastered parts of the Northeast from New Jersey to New Hampshire

1:15 a.m. — Nor’easter whipped the coast with exceptional winds

Since early Friday morning, strong wind gusts have battered the Northeast from Washington to Massachusetts. Estimates suggest around 2 million customers lost electricity on Friday as tree branches came toppling down onto power lines.

In Washington, the gusts were stronger than both the derecho in 2012 and Hurricane Sandy later that year. Around 600,000 customers were without power on Friday afternoon in the Washington region, though service was starting to be restored by 9 p.m. As of Midnight, more than 400,000 customers were still without power.

Though the storm was expected to generate a record surge in Boston, it ended as the third-worst for the city behind January’s “bomb cyclone,” and the Bizzard of 1978.

Top water crests in Boston

  1. 15.16 feet on Jan 4., 2018
  2. 15.10 feet on Feb. 7, 1978
  3. 14.67 feet on March 2, 2018

Peak wind gusts

Barnstable, Mass. — 93 mph
East Fallmouth, Mass. — 92 mph
Wellfleet, Mass. — 91 mph
Nantucket — 90 mph
Woods Hole, Mass. — 88 mph
Little Compton, R.I. — 83 mph
Scituate, Mass. — 80 mph
Cape May, N.J. — 71 mph
Dulles International Airport (Va.) — 71 mph
Charlestown, R.I. — 70 mph
New York City (JFK Airport) — 67 mph
Boston — 66 mph
District of Columbia — 66 mph
Plainfield, N.J. — 65 mph

5:52 p.m. — Wind gusts top 80 mph in Massachusetts

The strongest winds are focusing in on New England Friday evening, spiking to 89 mph on Nantucket. Overnight, the wind will create a destructive storm surge along the Massachusetts coast, where the National Weather Service is saying some homes could be destroyed.

Peak wind gusts Friday afternoon:

Nantucket — 89 mph
Woods Hole, Mass. — 88 mph
Little Compton, R.I. — 83 mph
Barnstable, Mass. — 81 mph
Block Island — 71 mph
Cape May, N.J. — 71 mph
Charlestown, R.I. — 70 mph
Plainfield, N.J. — 65 mph
New York City (JFK Airport) — 64 mph
White Plains, N.Y. — 63 mph
Boston — 60 mph
Plymouth, Mass. — 59 mph

4:10 p.m. — Meanwhile, in North Carolina …

On the south side of this storm winds are blowing the opposite direction. While they’re pushing water onshore in New England, the winds are pulling it away from the shore in North Carolina. The Pamlico River was dry to the floor on Friday afternoon as water levels dipped well below “low stage.” Sail boats rested on the riverbed near Washington, N.C., seen from the WITN webcams. The low water will continue through the weekend.

3:40 p.m. — Strong words from the Weather Service on Mass. flooding

As low tide approaches, the National Weather Service doesn’t want anyone in Eastern Massachusetts to let their guard down. They’re re-upping their warning: Everyone from Salisbury to Plymouth, including Boston, is at risk of major impacts through Saturday’s midday tide.

Water levels will be close to 4 feet above normal on Friday night, and 3 to 3 ½ feet above normal for the Saturday midday high tide, the Weather Service in Boston said.

Here’s what to expect Friday night:

  • Severe damage to vulnerable shoreline structures
  • Some homes along shoreline may be destroyed from the combination of high water and waves
  • Widespread inundation of coastal roads
  • Basements will flood
  • Extreme erosion and damage to protective dunes and sea walls
  • Many neighborhoods will remain cut off for an extended time

2:45 p.m. — The tide gauge everyone is watching in Boston

The water level at Boston Harbor is expected to meet or exceed the record set just two months ago in the “bomb cyclone.” The surge in that storm was 15.16 feet, but at high tide tonight, water levels could reach 15.4 inches according to National Weather Service forecasts on Friday.

This is the graph that everyone is watching. It shows what the tide would be on a typical day in blue versus what the actual water level has been in red. Around 11 a.m., water levels reached 14.67 feet. Forecasters expect a higher crest during the next tide, which will come just before Midnight.

In Boston, a water height above 14.5 feet leads to significant flooding of low-lying coastal areas from Revere through Hull, including the Seaport District. Numerous homes will be flooded and road closures and evacuations of coastal sections are likely, according to the National Weather Service.


(NOAA)

2 p.m. — Snowfall surpasses 2 feet in Upstate New York

Snow extends from New Jersey to northern Vermont, but most of it has been focused on Upstate New York on Friday. Closer to the coast where the temperature is warmer, precipitation is falling as heavy rain and has topped 2 inches on Long Island and in Boston.

Jefferson, N.Y. — 24 inches
Mayfield, N.Y. — 18 inches
Clinton, N.Y. — 16 inches
Beach Lake, Pa. — 10 inches
Green Pond, N.Y. — 5 inches

1:43 p.m. — Storm meets “bomb” criteria

It’s not hyperbole — this nor’easter is now considered a “bomb cyclone” due to its rapid intensification. A cyclone’s strength depends on its air pressure; the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. If the storm’s pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours, it’s considered a bomb because of how fast that strengthening occurred. It usually means severe impacts are being felt along the coast in the form of damaging winds, heavy precipitation and coastal storm surge.

Typical air pressure on a nice day is around 1010 millibars. On Friday afternoon, the nor’easter had a central pressure of around 970 millibars.

1:13 p.m. — Wind gusts are close to 80 mph

Peak wind gust reports

Wellfleet, Mass. — 78 mph
Marston Mills, Mass. — 71 mph
Dulles International Airport (Va.) — 71 mph
Woods Hole, Mass. — 77 mph
Nantucket — 66 mph
JFK Airport — 63 mph
Washington National Airport — 59 mph
Boston — 58 mph

Scenes like this one are playing out across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Friday. Police in Watertown, Mass., are asking residents to avoid streets with power lines down. In some cases, the wires may still be live. Hundreds of thousands of customers were without power Friday afternoon, potentially closing in on 1 million. Nearly 500,000 were without power in the Washington region alone.

12:28 p.m. — Storm is No. 3 in Boston, still climbing ranks

At 11:12 a.m., the water level at Boston Harbor reached 14.67 feet, more than two feet above flood stage. That crest makes this storm the third-worst on record for Boston. The high tide at midnight will likely push this storm to No. 1 on the list. Recent forecasts suggest water levels could reach 15.4 feet Friday night.

Top water crests in Boston

  1. 15.16 feet on Jan 4., 2018
  2. 15.10 feet on Feb. 7, 1978
  3. 14.67 feet on March 2, 2018

Water level at Boston Harbor. The blue line is what’s actually happened, and the purple dotted line is the forecast. (NOAA/USGS)

11:55 a.m. — 71-mph gust in Northern Virginia

Dulles Airport in northern Virginia just reported a gust of 71 mph. It’s the strongest wind gust report we’ve seen so far in this storm. Around 380,000 customers are without power in the D.C. region due to this storm. Winds are obviously reaching their peak in the Mid-Atlantic. In the Northeast, winds could top 70 mph on Friday evening.

11:30 a.m. — First round of flooding strikes Boston

The water level at Boston Harbor has reached 14.36 feet, which already makes this storm the third-worst for coastal flooding in Boston. If the water level reaches 15.4 feet — as it’s forecast to do today or tonight — it will be the highest water levels on record for the location, topping the Jan. 2018 “bomb cyclone” and the Blizzard of 1978.

10:26 a.m. — Water tops Scituate sea wall

The sea wall in Scituate, Mass., is already being overtopped by waves as the first high tide of the storm rolls in. This storm coincides with the full moon, when tides are at their highest. On Friday and Saturday, 3 to 5 feet of storm surge will be added on top of high tides. There will also be extra inundation from waves, which are expected to reach a height of 30 feet offshore.

Moderate flooding is expected in Boston late Friday morning during high tide. On Friday night, peak water level is forecast to surpass 15 feet — more than three feet above flood stage. Over the next 24 to 36 hours, shoreline roads will be flooded — some with more than three feet of water — and largely impassable. Large debris will be washed ashore. Basements will flood, sea walls could be damaged, and beaches will be severely eroded, the National Weather Service predicts.

Southern New England will bear the brunt of the coastal flooding, with onshore winds forecast to last through at least Saturday evening.

Wind gusts have brought down trees and power lines across the Northeast. Peak wind gusts have topped 60 mph so far, and gusts could reach 75 mph in eastern Massachusetts during the height of the storm.

Peak gusts through 10 a.m.

Washington (Catholic University) — 66 mph
Nantucket — 64 mph
Great Gull Island — 60 mph
Boston — 54 mph
Rockport, Mass. — 53 mph
Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse, N.J. — 53 mph
Milton, Mass. — 50 mph
Cape May, N.J. — 49 mph