Weather whiplash has heads spinning throughout the Northeast. Last week’s unusually balmy weather had flowers blooming from Washington to New York. This week, Winter Storm Riley — a late-winter nor’easter — is delivering rain, snow and punishing winds to cities up and down the coast. Scientists say that climate change is making such storms ever more powerful, and this is only the beginning.
In the mid-Atlantic, 67-mph winds have knocked down trees and power lines, leaving more than 600,000 people without power Friday morning. More than 2,000 fights have been canceled.
As the storm works its way up the coast, winds upwards of 70 mph are expected to fuel 4-foot storm surges that could destroy seaside homes — flooding made measurably worse by a nearly full moon and more than a century of sea-level rise. The National Weather Service warns this is a “life and death situation” for those in Boston, Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has called in the National Guard as the state prepares for possible evacuations.
[COASTAL FLOODING] Take this storm seriously! This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast, esp those ocean-exposed shorelines; moderate to major flooding; locations becoming inundated, cut off for periods of time; expect structural damage, homes destroyed pic.twitter.com/vGLB09BFbW
— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) March 1, 2018
Nearer the ocean, precipitation is coming down as a mix of snow and rain. Further inland, Riley is burying cities in snow. Parts of western New York recorded nearly two feet in less than 24 hours. In Buffalo, locals saw heavy snowfall paired with lightning, a phenomenon known as “thundersnow.”
Officials say Northeast residents should stay indoors away from windows. They are also urging those in the storm’s path to prepare for power outages by charging portable devices and checking flashlight batteries. Coastal residents should be prepared to evacuate.