Nor'easter slamming U.S. East Coast with heavy rain, strong winds

A major nor'easter is pounding U.S. East Coast, packing heavy rain, intermittent snow and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine brace for coastal flooding.

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People struggle against strong wind while waiting to cross 42nd Street in the Times Square district during a winter nor'easter in New York City on Friday. City emergency management officials were warning that high winds could blow down trees and power lines. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

A major nor'easter pounded the U.S. East Coast on Friday, packing heavy rain, intermittent snow and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine braced for coastal flooding.

The Eastern Seaboard was buffeted by wind gusts exceeding 80 km/h, with possible hurricane-strength winds of around 130 km/h to 145 km/h on Cape Cod. Also, heavy snow fell in Ohio and upstate New York as the storm spun eastward. 

In New York's Putnam County, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a downed tree that crashed through a house during the storm.

Winds in the area were gusting up to 95 km/h at the time, local media reported.

The major storm grounded thousands of flights, including more than 1,500 flights at New York's three major airports.

Air travellers stand at the check in counter during a winter nor'easter at LaGuardia Airport in New York on Friday. The powerful storm caused delays at several airports. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Amtrak reported track damage on one of its Washington lines, and eventually announced it was halting service on its busy northeast corridor until Saturday.

The late-season storm left more than 150,000 customers without power and closed schools across upstate New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a travel advisory for all areas north of New York City, requesting limited travel due to dangerous driving conditions.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated 200 National Guard members to help deal with the storm.

A street floods as a large coastal storm slams Scituate, Mass., on Friday. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is warning that number of people experiencing power outages in the state is expected to rise. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Schools in the coastal community of Scituate were closed Friday because of the powerful storm, officials said. (Ryan McBride/AFP/Getty Images)

"We're expecting to see more severe flooding issues here than we did in the Jan. 4 storm," when a nor'easter lashed the region with heavy snow and rain, he said.

The storm knocked out power to 500,000 residences and businesses from Michigan to North Carolina. In D.C. alone, more than 100,000 customers lost power.

High winds downed a tree onto power lines, blocking the street and damaging a vehicle March 2, 2018 in Takoma Park, Md. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Freezing temperatures and wind gusts pounded the Washington, D.C., area, downing trees, knocking out power and forcing schools and the federal government to close. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Office of Personnel Management announced it would close all federal offices in the D.C. area for the day, while the Smithsonian museums also closed. Pennsylvania utilities report at least 65,000 outages in that state.

Residents were taking matters into their own hands.

In Duxbury, south of Boston, officials urged people to evacuate as soon as possible, and the fire department was preparing to use a high-water rescue vehicle for the first time to help any residents stuck in homes amid high floodwaters.

People walk through water covering State Street, Boston, flooded by water from Boston Harbor at high tide. (Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

Michelle Shaffer, 45, of the coastal Massachusetts town of Hull, lost her appliances beneath almost two metres of water during the last big storm.

"I have a new washer, and my boyfriend just built a wooden platform for it. We got a couple of sump pumps," said Shaffer, who evacuated Thursday night. "This storm is going to be worse because it's going over three high tides," she said.

In New Jersey, officials worried that the storm could take a chunk out of beaches just south of Atlantic City that are being repaired because of damage from previous storms. Winds were expected to increase drastically throughout the day, peaking Friday afternoon with gusts from 80 km/h to around 95 km/h that could leave downed trees and power lines. Almost 5,000 customers were without power.

Across the East Coast, authorities told residents of coastal communities to be prepared to evacuate, if necessary, in advance of high tides. The weather service said all of Rhode Island was under flood and high wind watches through Sunday morning.

The storm's impact is quickly being felt. In Connecticut, college newspaper the Daily Campus reported the University of Connecticut's Agriculture Biotechnology Lab building was evacuated after high winds blew a smokestack on the roof.

The storm's impact has been felt as far south as central Virginia's Hanover County, where the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported EMS crews were needed to rescue four children trapped in a house under a fallen tree.

Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and American Airlines were allowing travellers to change their Friday and Saturday flights to avoid delays and cancellations at key airports across the Northeast.

A man walks down a flooded street during rain and high winds in the Broad Channel section of Queens in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)