A massive winter storm is bringing gusting winds to much of the eastern US this weekend and is expected to dump a foot snow in some areas of the northeast as it brings freezing temperatures to the southeast.
The storm has been described as a bomb cyclone, which refers to the process known as bombogenesis – similar to a winter hurricane.
Snow is expected to fall at a rate of one to two inches an hour from the central Appalachians into the Northeast, combining with wind gusts of up to 50 mph to create drifting snow, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches are forecast for much of the interior Northeast.
Moderate to heavy snow has already hit “a rather large area” of the eastern US, including as much as 8 to 12 inches in the Tennessee Valley and central Appalachia, said National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Orrison.
Strong winds were reported in southern states – gusts, possibly a tornado, hit early Saturday in Ocala, a city in central Florida, damaging buildings and homes. More than a hundred thousand power outages were reported from Pennsylvania to Florida midday Saturday, according to Poweroutage.us.
The storm will also bring threats of flooding, hail and possible tornadoes to much of the coastal southeast, according to AccuWeather.
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And much of the northeast is also expected to see severely reduced visibility and white-out conditions, making road travel “extremely dangerous at times,” according to NOAA.
Amid the storm, Route 581 in Pennsylvania was shut down Saturday after 73 vehicles were involved in a crash, Pennsylvania State Police said. Multiple, non-life threatening injuries were reported.
The Virginia Department of Transportation cautioned residents to stay off roads.
Police in Charleston, South Carolina also reported high winds causing the container of a truck to fly off and land on a police car. Two bridges also closed. Winds above 60 mph have already been reported in Charleston, according to the local National Weather Service.
Several St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were canceled due to weather over the weekend, including in Albany, New York and multiple cities in Pennsylvania. In Knoxville, Tennessee, and St. Patrick’s Day parade was canceled after several inches of snow led to multiple crashes on interstate highways.
After the storm recedes, much of the Southeast will see record low temperatures that could plunge Mississippi into colder temperatures than Alaska, according to AccuWeather.
Temperatures could drop rapidly on Saturday, AccuWeather said.
FORECAST EARLIER THIS WEEK:Winter bomb cyclone to pound eastern US with snow, rain, wind over the weekend
But the colder weather is not expected to last long, and temperatures should be back to normal by Monday, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
“The cold shot is going to be a quick one, with very cold low temperatures Saturday night into Sunday am, then Sunday afternoon temperatures should be a good 10 to 15 degrees warmer, and already closer to normal by Monday,” Miller said.
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Contributing: The Associated Press