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East Coast blizzard unleashes epic flooding ahead of dangerous cold

Forecasters warned Friday that bitter and potentially record-setting Arctic air will settle in through the weekend.
Image: Boston storm
Drivers make their way along the flooded Beach Road after the ocean overtopped the seawall during a winter snowstorm in the Boston suburb of Lynn on Jan. 4, 2018.Brian Snyder / Reuters

The deadly winter storm that buried parts of the East Coast in more than a foot of snow brought historic flooding to Boston and its suburbs, where residents scrambled Friday morning to clean up ahead of a dangerous cold snap that could affect more than 100 million Americans.

The nor'easter that carried wind gusts as high as 60 mph generated a record 3-foot tidal surge along most of the Massachusetts coastline on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, Boston's cityscape was transformed into an icy tundra with flooded streets that led to trapped cars and dramatic rescues by emergency responders and the National Guard.

"If anyone wants to question global warming, just see where the flood zones are," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called the high tide "historic," and forecasters said the flooding is the highest ever recorded tide since 1921. Less than 1,000 people were without power early Friday morning in eastern Massachusetts, the local utility reported.

In Plymouth County, partially frozen water breached a seawall and flooded homes. "We are watching it come up, come up, it is not going to get any higher," resident Emily Anderson recounted to NBC Boston. "All of a sudden it is in our living room."

Related: Millions face snow, travel chaos as 'bomb cyclone' clobbers Northeast

This winter storm phenomenon nicknamed a "bomb cyclone," set off by a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure, began in the Southeast and brought rare snowfall to Florida. As it intensified, it led to messy commutes and thousands of flights being canceled or delayed.

As of Friday morning, there were still more than 1,400 flight cancellations and hundreds of delays, mostly in Boston and New York City, where airports began ramping up service.

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While air and train travel was back on track, forecasters warned of more nasty weather: bitter and potentially record-setting Arctic air that will settle in through the weekend.

Dangerous wind chills are expected to stretch from parts of Georgia and South Carolina up through Maine and as far west as North Dakota.

Photos: 'Bomb cyclone' slams East Coast with wind and snow

"It's going to be extremely uncomfortable for a lot of us as we go through the days ahead," said Heather Tesch, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, adding that over a dozen records for low temperatures across several states could be shattered into Saturday. "Remember, there are people without power due to the recent storm."

So how low will the temperatures go?

By Saturday morning, the wind chill will make it feel like 20 degrees below in Minneapolis, 11 degrees below in Chicago, 10 degrees below in Boston, 5 degrees below in New York and 0 degrees in Washington, D.C., according to The Weather Channel.

The South won't be spared either: Charleston, South Carolina, will feel like 26 degrees, Atlanta like 18 degrees and parts of northern and central Florida less than 30 degrees.

Meteorologists warn that with a windchill at 20 degrees below, frostbite can kick in within just 30 minutes.

This next round of cold air follows a sustained period of brutally cold weather linked to the deaths of at least 24 people since Dec. 26.

In addition, the winter storm this week led to the deaths of at least eight people. Three died in North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper said two people were killed when a truck ran off the road and overturned in a creek in Moore County and where authorities said a third person was killed when a vehicle crashed into a canal in Surf City.

Photos: Normally balmy southeastern coast blanketed in snow

In Lower Moreland Township, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, a passenger in a car was killed when the vehicle couldn't stop at the bottom of a steep, snow-covered hill, crashed through the crossing gate and slammed into a commuter train, police said.

Two deaths occurred Thursday in Virginia, local police said: In Hampton, a 75-year-old private contractor who was clearing snow from a parking lot died after he was struck by a snowplow.

And a young girl in Chesterfield County died in the hospital after she was struck by a pickup truck while sledding down her driveway and into the street, where she came into the path of the car.

Officials in Suffolk County, Long Island, also confirmed Friday that two people died Thursday during the storm. The men, both in their mid-50s, suffered "cardiac injuries" while shoveling or removing snow.