'Bomb Cyclone' Detonates in Northeast Canceling 4,000 Flights; Emergencies Declared in Several States

A massive winter storm known as a "bomb cyclone" for its rapid and rare drop in atmospheric pressure roared into the East Coast on Thursday, rocking the Northeast and threatening as much as 18 inches of snow from the Carolinas to Maine.

Think: hurricane-force winds, damaging flooding, closed schools and offices and thousands of flights canceled.

Forecasters expected the system to be followed immediately by a blast of face-stinging cold air that could break records in more than two dozen cities, with wind chills falling to minus 40 in some places this weekend.

Blizzard warnings and states of emergencies have been declared, some areas experienced gusts of winds up to 76 mph. Eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island braced for snow falling as fast as three inches per hour.

Authorites in North Carolina say three people were killed after their vehicles ran off snow-covered roads.

Cars were stuck in floodwaters in and around Boston during high tide on Thursday afternoon, with emergency responders reporting a number of rescues. Flooding from the storm surge was also affecting subway service. The National Weather Service in Boston tweeted the flooding could be some of the worst experienced in 40 years.

Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed, according to FlightAware, with more than 4,000 canceled and over 1,000 delayed at publication time. All flights at New York's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports were temporarily suspended, and airports in Newark, New Jersey, and Boston reported more than half of their flights canceled. Additionally, Amtrak said it would operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston.

New York could see up to 10 inches of snow and wind gusts as high as 50 mph, the National Weather Service and city officials said. The city's schools were closed and airports are already crippled by cancellations as residents in the region grapple with the snow through the early evening. Schools were expected to reopen Friday.

A storm is considered a "bomb" when the pressure drops rapidly — at least 24 millibars in 24 hours — and the storm Thursday could intensify at twice that rate, Bob Oravec, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center, told NBC News.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue, who helped popularize the term "polar vortex" in 2014, told The Associated Press: "Bombogenesis is the technical term. Bomb cyclone is a shortened version of it, better for social media. The actual impacts aren't going to be a bomb at all. There's nothing exploding or detonating."


Photo credit: Twitter / @NWS