‘Bomb Cyclone’ Possible with Life-Threatening East Coast Storms

This isn't your ordinary windy day.

So, I woke up this morning to news that my kids’ school here in Fairfax County and Marine Corps Base Quantico, where I work, are both closed. On account of it being windy. While things aren’t all that bad here, at least yet, the closures are perfectly reasonable given the forecasts.

CNN (“The nor’easter hammering the East Coast could become a ‘bomb cyclone’“):

A nor’easter has begun hammering the East Coast with a ferocious mix of howling winds, drenching rain, some snow and surging waves.

The storm, with about 80 million people in its path, could knock out power and flood some neighborhoods along the Atlantic coast Friday and Saturday.
As the high tide advances, authorities are warning coastal residents to be ready to evacuate.

“Take this storm seriously! This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast, especially those ocean-exposed shorelines,” the National Weather Service in Boston tweeted.

Like the nor’easter in January, this storm could undergo bombogenesis — or become a “bomb cyclone” — by dropping at least 24 millibars of atmospheric pressure in 24 hours. Some forecasters predict a sudden pressure plummet Friday evening off the Atlantic coast.

While I’m not a fan of the cutesy naming of potentially deadly weather phenomena, it’s attention-grabbing.

Among the follow-on effects discussed in the CNN report are coastal flooding, flight cancellations, heavy snow, and local evacuations–with plenty of warnings from officials, including the governor of Massachusetts, not to try and ride out the storm if ordered to relocate. Locally, things are expected to be less severe:

In Washington and Baltimore, wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph are expected. Officials in the nation’s capital activated a hypothermia alert and urged homeless residents to take shelter. Federal offices around Washington didn’t open Friday and trash collection was suspended.

WaPo (“High winds hit D.C. region, closing federal government and some area schools“) has more details:

The Washington region awoke Friday morning to high winds reaching gusts of nearly 70 mph as a powerful storm rumbled up the Northeast with snow, dangerous gales and coastal flooding in parts.

The federal government closed for the day, along with several area school districts, including Fairfax, Montgomery and Loudoun counties. District of Columbia Public Schools announced before 8:30 a.m. that parent-teacher conferences would be rescheduled.


Hundreds of thousands of people were without power. Widespread power outages were reported across Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District.

At one point early Friday, nearly 170,000 customers were without power — mostly in Northern Virginia, where 100,000 customers were hit. In Maryland, 44,000 customers were without power and another 17,000 in the District.

The storm is expected to last through at least two to three tide cycles and coincides with a full moon. The worst winds were expected to hit the D.C. region between 5 a.m. and noon Friday, according to the Post’s Capital Weather Gang. High winds are expected to last until 6 p.m. Saturday.

On Friday morning, Metro was running its trains slower above ground because of the high winds. And at one point, there were delays on three rail lines after a downed tree on the Green Line and troubles with power that impacted the Yellow and Blue lines.

Commuter rail services — MARC and Virginia Railway Express — shut down their trains for the day.

On area roadways, there were downed wires and trees, plus traffic signals were out in some areas.

On the inner loop of the Capital Beltway near Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Md., some lanes were closed after a crash involving a tractor trailer, a tree and several vehicles. It was not immediately known if anyone was seriously hurt. And in Prince George’s County, there were traffic delays due to a downed tree on the Suitland Parkway.

There were also other incidents that were said to be weather-related, including a blown transformer in Rockville and a large tree that fell on the home of a 100-year-old resident in Kensington, Md. The person’s condition wasn’t immediately known.

I guess I’ll be hunkering down here for the day. In the event we don’t lose power, I’ll be reviewing a stack of master’s papers and doing a bit more blogging.

FILED UNDER: Natural Disasters
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He's a widower and father of two young daughers. He earned his PhD from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    I’m in northeastern Mass. It’s rainy and breezy. Nothing apocalyptic.


  2. Mikey says:

    There’s some significant wind damage in my area of Fairfax County–four trees are down behind my house, roads are partially and fully closed, lots of debris all over the place. We still have power (knock on wood), all our lines are underground so we generally stay powered even in severe weather.

    Fortunately my office is also closed, so I can enjoy the free day off too!


  3. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: Yeah, so far just some broken branches and a piece of roofing material on the ground here. Hope that’s the extent of it.


  4. CSK says:

    From what I’m hearing from relatives in northeastern PA. and MD, they’re really getting hammered: blizzard conditions in PA. and 70 mph winds in MD.


  5. SKI says:

    Already had a tree block the only entrance/exit from our neighborhood here in Naptown. Cleared now but with the way these gusts are… I’m expecting more issues.


  6. JohnMcC says:

    Watching from a safe distance and wondering (is there a weather nerd to explain?) if this is somehow a direct connection to the ‘beast from the east’ that is afflicting Europe and/or the strange >0C temps in the arctic? I’ve seen downtown Annapolis full of Chesapeake Bay during high-tide-with-nor’easter and I guess this is worse.


  7. liberal capitalist says:

    I’m in Mass today. Wicked wet.

    Flight out of Boston Logan, cancelled. Flight tomorrow is booked, but not holding high hopes.

    Stupid hotel just lost power (with buildings all round lit up like Christmas). So, yeah.

    Still, to cheer folks up, give this a watch:

    How d’ya like ‘dem apples?


  8. DrDaveT says:

    While I’m not a fan of the cutesy naming of potentially deadly weather phenomena, it’s attention-grabbing.

    Congratulations; you almost get it.

    Are you a fan of people dying? If you name the storms, people take them more seriously and fewer of them die. Dumb, huh? Feel free to bemoan how stupid that implies people are, but in the end you’re either for or against saving lives.

    As for this particular storm… last count I saw was a peak of around 400,000 customers without power in Northern Virginia, at least one major interstate highway closed, a few deaths, some property damage, thousands of cancelled flights, commuter rail and Amtrak shut down… Yeah, I think closing the schools was probably the right call.