A storm off the south-east coast of the United States will intensify so rapidly meteorologists have coined a new term to describe it — a “bomb cyclone”.
Forecasters warned the huge weather system would bring blizzards packing up to 30 centimetres of snow, winds in excess of 110 kilometres per hour, bitter cold and the danger of coastal flooding, as it tracked north along the eastern seaboard over the next few days.
What is a ‘bomb cyclone’?
A bomb cyclone develops in an area where low pressure is declining rapidly.
The lower the pressure, the more explosive the storm will be.
What a beautiful scene on top of Beech Mountain. The combination of 2” of snow and rime ice has created a winter wonderland. Only problem is the temperature is -1F. Great photo Robbie Curlee #ncwx. pic.twitter.com/EOBg4z3G1X
— Ed Piotrowski (@EdPiotrowski) January 1, 2018
The BBC reported the US was on its 10th day of record-breaking arctic temperatures and said the ‘bomb cyclone’ could cause winds violent enough to bring down trees and cause structural damage.
The Washington Post described the bomb cyclone as a “polar vortex” that would resemble a winter hurricane.
The National Weather Service tweeted “this rapidly intensifying east coast storm will produce strong, damaging winds — possibly resulting in downed trees, power outages and coastal flooding”.
“These strong winter systems are notorious for packing big winds and waves to go along with heavy snow.”
Who will be hit by the winter bomb?
A winter storm warning is extending from the Gulf Coast of Florida’s “Big Bend” region all the way up the Atlantic coast.
Forecasters said hurricane-force winds blowing offshore on Thursday could generate seven-metre seas.
Schools in the south-east called off classes just months after being shut down because of hurricane threats, and police have urged drivers to stay off the roads in a region little accustomed to the kind of winter woes common to the north-east.
Further north, Boston was warned to expect up to 30cm of snow, while New York was warned to expect at least 15cm.
Meteorologists said most of the storm’s fierce hurricane-force winds should stay out to sea until it neared Cape Cod, Maine and Canada.
But Weather Prediction Centre lead forecaster Bob Oravec said the fast-moving system could bring 113kph wind gusts to coastal New England.
Meteorologists said perhaps the worst effects could be bitter subzero cold — chillier than the frigid past couple of weeks.
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at Weather US, said the blizzard warnings from Rhode Island to Maine were “akin to a hurricane travelling up the coast”.
“People should not be as worried about the storm as they should be about the cold air behind it,” he said.
“The actual impacts aren’t going to be a bomb at all. There’s nothing exploding or detonating.”
At least 16 deaths have already been blamed on dangerously cold temperatures that have gripped wide swaths of the US.