U.S. East Coast Braces for Rapidly Intensifying Winter Storm

Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay helps break free tug Stephanie Dann from the ice on the Hudson River near Kingston, New York, January 2, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads Captain of the Port set ice condition two and plans to close the Capes to all inbound and outbound vessel traffic at 6 p.m. Wednesday ahead of a strong winter storm that is forecasted to explode in intensity over the next 24 hours, creating impacts from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast.

Ice condition two is set when there is significant formation of ice in navigable waters.

Already, ice has been reported on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and in the Chesapeake Bay tributaries. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock, which homeported in Baltimore, is currently underway conducting ice-breaking and other relief efforts in the vicinity of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

Hampton Roads will remain open to all vessel traffic and commercial activities without limitations until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The U.S. National Weather Service on Wednesday forecasted an intense low pressure developing off the Atlantic coast by 7 AM EST Thursday morning with winds up to 80 knots and seas to 33 feet.

The rapidly intensifying storm will produce strong, damaging winds – possibly resulting in downed trees, power outages and coastal flooding. The current forecast calls for anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow accumulation along the East coast from Virginia Beach to Boston. Higher amounts of 12 to 18+ inches is possible for portions of northern New England. In addition to the snow, bitterly cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills are expected to persist through the weekend.

Further north, Coast Guard units across the Northeast are gearing up before the storm starts to impact the area on Thursday.

The Boston-based 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, will stage offshore to provide search and rescue coverage if needed, and shore based units are standing ready to deploy if necessary, the Coast Guard said Wednesday. As conditions deteriorate overnight, heavy winds, snow and freezing spray put vessels at risk of sinking at their anchorage points or pier due to the ice and accumulation of snow, it warned.

“The impending blizzard will cause a variety of maritime hazards, including strong winds, zero visibility, topside icing and heavy seas,” said Capt. Rick Wester, Sector Hampton Roads Captain of the Port. “Mariners should secure their vessels, stow any loose equipment, monitor updates and most importantly, stay off the water.”

The Coast Guard’s ice-breaking assets will seek safe haven during the height of storm, but will deploy afterwards as part the Coast Guard’s region-wide effort to ensure the Northeast has security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources needed.

For more on the Winter Storm’s impact on East Coast energy, read here.