Nor’easter slamming East Coast with heavy rain, strong winds

The Eastern Seaboard is expected to be buffeted by wind gusts exceeding 50 mph, with possible hurricane-strength winds of 80 to 90 mph on Cape Cod. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (AP) — A major nor’easter pounded the East Coast on Friday, packing heavy rain, intermittent snow and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine braced for coastal flooding.

More than 2,100 flights were canceled by airlines, most spread across airports in the Northeast. Nashville travelers are finding two dozen flights canceled to airports on the east coast.

The Eastern Seaboard was  buffeted by wind gusts exceeding 50 mph, with possible hurricane-strength winds of 80 to 90 mph on Cape Cod. Strong winds took down power poles in Watertown, a Boston suburb..

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

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. 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.

A pilot who landed at Dulles Airport Friday morning reported the landing was so bumpy, “pretty much everyone on the plane threw up. Pilots were on the verge of throwing up.”

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.

Michelle Shaffer, 45, of the coastal Massachusetts town of Hull, lost her appliances under 5 feet 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.

The Coast Guard advised boaters to exercise “vigilance and extreme caution.” The National Weather Service warned that the storm would morph into heavier, wet snow later Friday.

A man shovels snow as traffic makes it’s way east on 81st street, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A massive winter storm swept from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, dumping snow along the coast and bringing strong winds that will usher in possible record-breaking cold. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In New Jersey, officials worried that the storm could take a chunk out of beaches just south of Atlantic City that are still being repaired because of damage from previous storms. Winds were expected to increase drastically throughout the day, peaking Friday afternoon with gusts from 50 mph to 60 mph that could leave downed trees and power lines. Almost 5,000 customers were without power.

Western New York into northern Pennsylvania was expected to get hit hardest by the snowfall, with 8 to 12 inches likely.

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.

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

Regional power utilities said they had extra crews on standby to deal with outages.