BOSTON (Reuters) – Businesses near Boston Harbor set up temporary flood barriers and piled sandbags around their doors on Friday as the northeastern United States felt the brunt of a powerful storm that threatened to flood coasts from Maine to Virginia.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International, extensive school closings were reported throughout the region and the federal government closed offices in Washington, D.C.
Heavy rains, monthly extreme high tides and a wind-driven storm surge could combine to cause several feet of water to flow onto streets in coastal Massachusetts, with government and private weather forecasters warning of a repeat of an early-January storm that drove a couple of feet of icy seawater onto Boston’s streets. High winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) could also bring extensive power outages.
“The winds are going to keep on increasing and the seas are going to go higher and higher for the next three high tide cycles,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. Flooding is expected to become severe around this morning’s high tide, forecast for shortly after 11 a.m. ET in Boston (1600 GMT), and continue into Saturday morning.
Officials told residents to brace for a repeat of the flooding that followed the Jan. 4“bombogenesis” winter storm.
The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine through coastal Virginia, including New York’s eastern suburbs, and was also tracking a snowstorm heading east from the Ohio Valley that could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State. It forecast storm surges of up to four feet (1.2 meters) for eastern Massachusetts.
Federal offices closed on Friday in Washington, D.C., while dozens of schools throughout the region canceled classes. More than a quarter of flights into and out of New York’s three major airports and Boston’s airport were canceled, according to tracking service Flightaware.com.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh urged businesses in flood-prone areas to allow employees to work from home.
Ocean-facing homes could be destroyed by the storm surge and waves, while people who live in neighborhoods reached by low-lying roads could be cut off from services for hours or days, officials warned.
Southern California was also facing weather dangers, with risks of rain-driven mudslides prompting mandatory evacuations ordered for some 30,000 people living near fire-scarred hills around the Santa Barbara coast.