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East coast blizzard 'bomb cyclone' snow updates: Emergency alerts, airport closures, latest info

Up to 18 inches of snow was expected in eastern New England

A man walks his dog through the empty streets of Boston as the snow begins to fall during a massive winter storm on January 4, 2018 in Boston, United States. Schools and businesses throughout the Boston area are closed as the city is expecting over a foot of snow and blizzard like conditions throughout the day.
A man walks his dog through the empty streets of Boston as the snow begins to fall during a massive winter storm on January 4, 2018 in Boston, United States. Schools and businesses throughout the Boston area are closed as the city is expecting over a foot of snow and blizzard like conditions throughout the day. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – A massive winter storm swept from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, dumping snow along the coast and bringing strong winds that will usher in possible record-breaking cold.

Up to 18 inches of snow was expected in eastern New England. Blizzard warnings and states of emergency were in effect, schools and government offices closed for the day, thousands of flights were canceled and motorists were warned to be careful as conditions worsened. Shelters were open as officials worried about power outages leaving people without any heat.

More than 13 million people are under blizzard warnings, from Virginia all the way to Maine.

People who take to the roads are in for an “ugly, long commute” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Latest developments:

• Massive snowfall expected: The projected snowfall for New York increased Thursday, 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.

• Going dark -- with no heat: More than 40,000 customers in Virginia and North Carolina had no power Thursday, according to provider Dominion Energy. And a day after the storm struck the Southeast, more than 8,000 customers were also without power in Florida, according to Duke Energy.

• Travel nightmares begin: More than 3,100 US flights have been canceled for Thursday, according to Flightaware.com. At New York City's LaGuardia Airport, 90% of Thursday's flights are canceled. And American Airlines has suspended all departures from Boston.

• 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.

Follow the latest East coast storm updates below:

 

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Massive winter storm bringing snow, cold to huge swath of US

North Carolina authorities said two people died during the storm when their pickup truck ran off a snow-covered road and overturned into a creek Wednesday night in Moore County, which wasn’t expected to get any snow. The North Carolina Highway Patrol responded to 700 collisions and 300 other calls for service during the storm.

In New Jersey, Orlando Igmat’s car got stuck in a snowbank along the Garden State Parkway in Tinton Falls on Thursday morning as he drove to work at Verizon. He had to wait a half hour for a tow truck to pull him out.

“I just skidded on the road and then stopped me here so I can’t move right now anymore,” he said. “I didn’t expect it (the storm) was going to be a heavy one. That’s why I went to work today. I’m going to stay in a hotel tonight.”

Ankle deep snow and wind gusts approaching 50 mph (80 kph) covered Maryland’s Ocean City Boardwalk, which was under a blizzard warning Thursday.

Eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island were bracing for as much as 18 inches of snow, with snow falling at a rate of 3 inches per hour possible. The National Weather Service warned of wind gusts hitting near 70 mph.

The Eversource electric utility said more than 5,500 homes and businesses were without power at midmorning Thursday in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the outermost tip of Cape Cod, which was being lashed with hurricane-force wind gusts.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said more than 100 warming centers have been opened in 34 towns across the state. Connecticut has 634 state plow trucks and 250 contractors working to clear the highways.

The massive storm began two days ago in the Gulf of Mexico, first hitting the Florida Panhandle. It has prompted thousands of canceled flights, shuttered schools and businesses and sparked fears of coastal flooding and power outages.

Wind gusts strong enough to cause downed trees and power lines were predicted in places where the National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings. They include the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes parts of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland; coastal New Jersey; eastern Long Island, New York; and coastal eastern New England.

More than two-thirds of flights in and out airports in the New York City area and Boston were canceled. The airline-tracking site FlightAware reported more than 3,200 canceled flights within, into, or out of the United States on Thursday morning.

The storm shut down much of eastern Virginia, but some people were taking it in stride.

Mark Schoenenberger, 45, a NASA engineer who lives in Norfolk, Virginia, put on his cross country skis so he could make a half hour trip to the bagel shop for some breakfast for his family.

“It’s like ’Yay, I get to go out,” he said.

The only concern he seemed to have was telecommuting while his kids were home from school. But “it’s just noise,” he said.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Jonathan Rogers and his brother, Jason Mitchell, got stuck in the snow at least twice while driving home Thursday morning after working the overnight shift at a local hospital.

“I was not staying,” said Rogers, 30, a floor technician. “I said the storm is not going to bother me.”

The storm will then be followed by a wave of bracing cold.

“We think there are going to be scattered records broken for low temperatures,” said Peterson, adding how the weather service expects 28 major cities across New England, eastern New York and the mid-Atlantic states will have record low temperatures by dawn on Sunday.

State and local officials urged residents to prepare for possible power losses and stay home so crews can clear streets and roads of what could be as much as foot or more of snow in some places. There were concerns in Boston and elsewhere that if roads aren’t properly cleared, they could freeze into cement-like icy messes by Friday, given the expected low temperatures. In other areas, plummeting temperatures already have caused water mains to burst.

The storm has resulted in thousands of canceled flights at major airports such as Boston’s Logan International Airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport and disrupted the schedules at regional airports.

Amtrak planned to operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston on Thursday. Northeast Regional Service between Washington, D.C., and Newport News/Norfolk, Virginia, was canceled for Thursday.

The coastal Southeast got a rare blast of snow and ice on Wednesday. Schools were shut down just months after hurricane threats. In Charleston, South Carolina, the weather service reported 5 inches of snow, enough for Chris Monoc’s sons, ages 4 and 2, to go sledding outside their home.

“They probably will be teenagers the next time something like this happens, and that’s kind of sad,” Monoc said. “But we’ll enjoy it while it’s here.”

Real weather term bomb blows up on social media

When it comes to weather, it’s hard to sound scarier than “bomb cyclone.”

It’s a version of a real weather term that applies to a massive winter storm that pulled together Wednesday off the U.S. Southeast coast. But as fearsome as the storm is with high winds and some snow, it may not be quite as explosive as the term sounds.

Meteorologists have used the term “bomb” for storms for decades, based on a strict definition, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.

After it showed it showed up in a Washington Post story on Tuesday, the weather geek term took on a life of its own on social media. The same thing happened four years ago with “polar vortex,” another long-used weather term that was little known to the public until then.

“Bombogenesis is the technical term. Bomb cyclone is a shortened version of it, better for social media,” said Weather.US meteorologist Ryan Maue, who helped popularize polar vortex in 2014.

“The actual impacts aren’t going to be a bomb at all,” Maue said. “There’s nothing exploding or detonating.”

Storm intensity is measured by central pressure — the lower the pressure, the stronger. A storm is considered a “bomb” when the pressure drops rapidly — at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

This storm looks like it will intensify at twice that rate, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

So far, the storm has dumped freak snow on the Southeast. It’s aiming for the Northeast, where the snow forecast for Thursday isn’t that big a deal, Furtado and others said. The worst of this storm will stay out to sea. What is going to be bigger is the high winds — gusts exceeding 60 mph — and the bitter cold that follows, they said.

Bomb cyclones draw air from polar regions after they leave. In this case, it means extra cold Arctic air because of where the polar vortex is, Furtado said.

Worldwide, about 40 to 50 “bomb cyclones” brew each year, but most are over open ocean and nobody but weather geeks notice, Maue said.

“We use the term bomb,” Furtado said. “We know what it means, but I do think it gets a little hyped up.”

NYC mayor expects schools to reopen on Friday

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he expects New York City’s public schools to reopen on Friday.

In the meantime, de Blasio says that “treacherous” weather conditions will mean a “tough evening commute” for anyone who didn’t follow officials’ advice to stay home on Thursday.

De Blasio says Queens has experienced “blizzard-like” conditions. He expects 6 to 10 inches of snow before it stops on Thursday night. It’s predicted the brutal cold and high winds will continue into the weekend.

De Blasio and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia say New Yorkers should not expect to see black top on the roads anytime soon. Crews are aggressively battling nature, but the blowing snow and cold are hampering their work.