Bombshell Cyclone Noreaster: The Northeast faces heavy snow and blizzard conditions this weekend, but models are still unclear on the severity of the situation

Forecasters predict eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, and Rhode Island will see 8 to 16 inches of snow, combined with wind gusts of up to 60 mph.

More than 5 million people in the region will be under a winter storm watch from Friday night through Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm is expected to form in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Georgia, then rapidly strengthen – a process known as bombogenesis – Friday night and move up the east coast on Saturday, although details of the impact remain unclear.

“This storm is likely to strengthen at a rate and intensity equivalent to the most powerful hurricanes alone, so the upscale potential of this storm cannot be overstated. But with northeasters, as in the ‘real estate, it will be all about location, location, location,’ CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

Heavy snow and high winds are likely across New England, “which could lead to blowing snow, scattered power outages and damage,” said the Weather Forecast Center said early Thursday.

Moderate to heavy snowfall is possible from New York to northeastern North Carolina, “but confidence in potential impacts is much lower,” forecasters said.

The storm could dump up to 8 inches of snow in Philadelphia and New York, while Washington, DC, could see up to 2 inches, according to multiple forecast models.

The dual threat of heavy snow and strong winds has the potential to create blizzard-like conditions in the northeast.

A blizzard occurs when snow is joined by winds blowing over 35 mph for more than three hours and creates visibility of less than a quarter mile.

Coastal flooding is a possibility

It is still too early to predict the precise impact of storms and snowfall.

“The storm’s path remains uncertain, which will directly impact accumulations and where the heaviest snowfall will settle,” the Boston Weather Services office said Thursday morning.
How to survive a blizzard
A “track farther from the low will decrease snowfall amounts while a track closer to shore will increase snowfall amounts and if the low gets close enough to the coast, winter mixing will be possible for some coastal sections of the is (it seems less and less likely),” the New York office of the National Weather Service said Wednesday.

“We cannot rule out a return west or even further eastward movement with less snow,” forecasters said early Thursday.

In addition to gusty winds and blowing snow, coastal flooding can also occur in some places. “Significant coastal impacts are possible in the northeast, including coastal flooding and beach erosion,” the forecast center said.

The stronger the storm, the greater the rise in water levels along the coast.

“Coastal flooding is a concern thanks to Saturday’s sky high tides,” the Boston Weather Services office said. “The combination of strong northeasterly winds and high seas will bring storm surges which, if coincident with high tide, would result in minor to moderate coastal flooding.”

The difference in the timing of storms – even as little as six hours – would make a huge difference in the impact on coastal flooding and erosion issues.

Different forecast models show different paths for the storm, making it difficult to pinpoint precisely what will happen, the National Weather Service said. These discrepancies are largely due to the fact that each model uses different methods to determine its forecast, explained CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.

Snow expected in the Great Lakes region

Meanwhile, a blast of arctic air is expected to enter the midsection of the northern United States on Thursday, bringing scattered snow showers to the Great Lakes region, the National Weather Service said.

The area experienced freezing conditions on Wednesday, with crashes reported in northern Indiana after drivers lost control on slippery bridges, officials said.

A FedEx tractor-trailer was left hanging over a bridge on the Indiana Toll Road in St. Joseph County when the driver lost control after being hit by another vehicle that also lost control, said Sgt. Indiana State Police District 24 spokesman Ted Bohner.

The FedEx truck hit the rear of another vehicle causing that vehicle to skid and the FedEx truck hit a concrete barrier wall of a bridge, Bohner said.

Another car also lost control on the icy roads, hitting and overturning a guardrail, officials said. The van “rolled or slid down the embankment and nearly veered onto a road parallel to the toll road,” Bohner said.

CNN’s Judson Jones and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.

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