Powerful nor'easter 'bomb cyclone' to lash East with rain, snow, howling winds

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March will roar in like a lion in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Friday and Saturday as a potent storm delivers a ferocious mix of howling winds, drenching rain, heavy snow and powerful waves.

Power outages, coastal flooding, damaging wind gusts and flight delays are all likely as the nor'easter explodes off the New England coast.

Winds are likely to be strong enough to lead to major airline delays from Chicago to Boston, and airlines are waiving change fees.

High wind warnings and watches are already in effect all the way from northern Georgia to eastern Massachusetts.

The storm is expected to undergo explosive development known as bombogenesis, which is a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure of 24 millibars or more in a period of 24 hours or less, the Weather Channel said.

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The storm will be the most powerful to hit the East since January's bomb cyclone, AccuWeather said.

The worst of the wind and coastal flooding will hit from eastern Massachusetts to southern Maine, AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson said. Hurricane-force wind gusts of 75 mph are possible, the National Weather Service said.

Up to two feet of heavy, wet snow will bury portions of New York and Pennsylvania. Strong winds are likely Friday afternoon and evening, with local whiteout conditions possible, the weather service said. Blizzard conditions are possible in portions of eastern Pennsylvania.

The Weather Channel named the system Winter Storm Riley.

Yet another storm could follow on its heels: "Unfortunately, there is increasing potential for another major coastal storm by the middle of next week," the weather service said.

The West is also getting in on the wild weather action. A separate strong storm will bring snow and rain to the western U.S. later Thursday and into Friday.

Authorities warned motorists to stay off northern California mountain roads with the storm forecast to bring heavy snowfall, powerful winds and torrential rains at lower elevations Thursday, the Associated Press said.

"Totals will be measured in feet and mountain travel will become dangerous," the weather service tweeted. "Travel is highly discouraged."

Over six feet of snow is forecast in the highest elevations of the Sierra.

In southern California, a forecast of widespread showers raised concern about flash flooding later in the week in areas burned by wildfires, the AP said.