After January’s “bomb cyclone,” the US East Coast is once again being hammered by a particularly bad storm that’s bringing strong winds and possibly record-breaking flooding. The National Weather Service has called the nor’easter “a LIFE & DEATH situation” in a tweet.
“In certain aspects, this one is bad,” says Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center. “The intensity of this system is right up there with the maximum that you would expect.”
This nor’easter is worse than others because it is rapidly intensifying close to the coast. Right now, an area of low pressure is getting stronger south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “It’s kind of sitting there,” Chenard tells The Verge. The storm will hang out in that area into the early afternoon and then start moving east, he says. Often, these storms rapidly intensify more offshore, but not in this case.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to appreciate the power and beauty of the atmosphere. This storm evolving today is unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/NZq9pQrSTH— John Homenuk (@jhomenuk) March 2, 2018
As a result, the eastern coast Massachusetts could see flooding that’s “near record levels,” Chenard says. That’s also because the storm is happening at the same time as a full Moon when tides are high. The nor’easter is going to impact three high tide cycles: one in the next couple hours, one this evening, and one tomorrow morning, adding an extra four to five feet of water in certain areas, Chenard says.
“There are just three different periods of potential flooding when the tides would already be normally high,” he says.
Aside from the flooding, the danger comes from the wind. Strong, long-lasting winds will affect almost all of the East Coast, from northern North Carolina all the way to New England. Wind gusts up to 60 to 70 miles per hour are already hammering the DC area, eastern Massachusetts, and southern New England, Chenard says. The wind is expected to knock down trees and power lines, causing outages. At the same time, heavy snowfall will affect only states inland, like northern Pennsylvania and New York.
The worst impacts from the nor’easter will be today and tonight, Chenard says, but strong winds are expected to linger into the day Saturday. By Sunday, the storm will have moved offshore enough to stop being a problem.