Facebook Twitter Comments Slate Plus

The East Coast Prepares for a Wintry “Bomb Cyclone”

ORLEANS, MA - JANUARY 03:   Sea ice surrounds a boat in Rock Harbor on January 3, 2018 in Orleans, Massachusetts, A winter storm is hitting the east coast from Florida to New England bringing snow and frigid temperatures. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Sea ice surrounds a boat in Rock Harbor on Wednesday in Orleans, Massachusetts.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Much of the East Coast has been busy raiding grocery stores in preparation for a winter storm projected to hit late Wednesday. The storm, which many forecasters are describing with the less-than-soothing term “bomb cyclone,” is expected to be the worst so far this season.

The winter storm, which exists now off the eastern coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas as a low-pressure region, will push up the East Coast of the U.S. as it builds. But winter storms have already brought record-breaking lows and snow to the areas unaccustomed to wintry weather. In Florida, in particular, people have been shocked by the snowfall, where Tallahassee received its first accumulation of snow and sleet since 1989. Florida State and Florida A&M universities closed down for the weather, as did one of each of the Universal, Disney, and SeaWorld theme parks.

In Savannah, Georgia, more than an inch of snow accumulated for the first time in around three decades.

Its airport closed, as did that of Charleston, South Carolina, which saw a notable snowfall itself:

The bomb cyclone is expected to form off Florida’s coast Wednesday and sweep upward, reaching Canada by Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Bomb cyclones aren’t actually that uncommon of a phenomenon, according to USA Today, and describe many Nor’easters. They result from dramatic drops in barometric pressure when areas of warm air meet cold air, which leads to a more rapidly intensifying storm than normal, moving in a broadly cyclonic rotation.

This particular bomb cyclone, though, sounds like it’ll be rather unpleasant. Jason Samenow from the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, writes that it could be “the most intense over the waters east of New England in decades at this time of year.” He describes it this way:

First, a monster storm will hammer the East Coast from north Florida to Maine with ice and snow. By Thursday, the exploding storm will, in many ways, resemble a winter hurricane, battering easternmost New England with potentially damaging winds in addition to blinding snow.

The National Weather Service has warned that these damaging winds could down trees or power lines. The cold, too, will be bitter, according to the Post:

In the storm’s wake, the mother lode of numbing cold will crash south—likely to be the last but most bitter in brutal blasts since Christmas Eve in the Northeast.
The storm’s enormous circulation will help draw several lobes of the polar vortex, the zone of frigid air encircling the North Pole, over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by Friday and Saturday. Wicked cold air sourced from Siberia, the North Pole and Greenland will all converge on the region.

Temperatures could drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, according to the Post, and Friday is expected to see more record lows. It doesn’t sound good, but places unaccustomed to extreme cold are preparing. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency on Tuesday for 28 counties, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he would do the same on Wednesday.

The storm is the latest and most brutal snap in weeks of frigid temperatures across much of the country. This cold spell, according to CNN, has led in part to the deaths of at least 12 people in the past week. New England officials have said they believe it could have sped along the deaths of several sharks that washed up, frozen, on snowy beaches, according to the New York Times.

Most of the country should expect to continue to brave the cold and snow a little longer. According to the National Weather Service, these frigid temperatures will persist into the weekend.

One more thing

You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.

Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.

Join Slate Plus