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'Treacherous' New England nor'easter could become 'bomb cyclone'

Rapidly strengthening storm could produce "impossible travel conditions, whiteout visibilities," and potential power outages, forecasters said.
A couple walks through heavy snow on Dec. 5, 2020 in Marlborough, Mass.Bill Sikes / AP

A weekend nor'easter storm moving up the New England coast was likely to produce "treacherous to even impossible travel conditions" Saturday as it evolved into a possible "bomb cyclone," federal forecasters said.

The low pressure system was centered over Massachusetts' Cape Cod on Saturday afternoon and was drawing in telltale northeast winds measuring 40 to 60 miles per hour, with the higher gusts affecting the coastline, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bryce Williams.

After dumping rain in the Mid-Atlantic, the system was expected to produce more than a foot of snow in central Massachusetts, forecasters said. Boston could see about half that, Williams said.

"It's heavy, wet snow," he said. "Trees and power lines could come down."

In Massachusetts, 14,824 utility customers were without power Saturday afternoon; in New Hampshire the figure was 12,210.

"Bomb cyclone" status, or bombogenesis, indicates a rapidly strengthening storm that sees atmospheric pressure drop 24 millibars in 24 hours, a scenario Williams said was "a definite possibility."

Parts of New England could be so inundated with blinding snow that travel was not recommended, the weather service said in a forecast discussion Saturday.

"The combination of heavy snowfall rates and strengthening winds will lead to treacherous to even impossible travel conditions, whiteout visibilities, and the potential for tree damage and power outages," the service said.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that residents should refrain from travel, if possible.

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"We urge citizens to travel only if necessary during the worst of the storm," agency director Pete Rogers said in the statement. "With temperatures hovering around freezing, road conditions are expected to be extremely slick."

Low temperatures in Boston will also reach the freezing mark, forecasters said. Winter storm warnings extended from central Massachusetts to northern Maine.

"Portions of New Hampshire and northern Maine could see totals approach two feet in spots," the weather service said.

High surf and coastal erosion along New England beaches were also possible, federal forecasters said.

Williams said active snow was likely to clear out of the Boston area by sunrise Sunday.