(Bloomberg) -- Boston and New England will take the brunt of a powerful snowstorm set to sweep the U.S. East Coast starting Friday, but New York City, Washington and the New Jersey coast will likely be digging out as well as the storm winds up.
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A winter storm watch is in effect for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where 8 to 16 inches (20 to 41 centimeters) of snow could fall through Saturday propelled by winds of 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers), while New York City may get as much as 7 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Eastern Long Island is forecast to receive more than a foot.
The storm, which will tie up ground and air traffic and potentially cause power outages, is expected to intensify so rapidly it could become a so-called bomb cyclone.
"It is pretty much a guarantee that this will bomb out," said Andrew Orrison, a forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. "The more significant impacts, hands down, are areas of New England."
However, a shift in the storm's potential track has meant areas from North Carolina to New York, particularly east of Interstate 95, could receive moderate snow, Orrison said. The energy that produces the storm is still crossing Canada into the U.S. Great Plains, so there is more uncertainty how it will affect New York and points south than what is going to happen in eastern New England and Boston.
The Northeast has lagged below normal for snowfall this year, so the storm has the potential to be the biggest in the region this season. Since Dec. 1, Central Park has received 7 inches of snow, or 4.2 inches below normal. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington are all running behind average as well.
Prior to the storm, the liquefied natural gas tanker Cadiz Knutsen anchored in Massachusetts Bay, joining the Exemplar, which has been there since late December. New England relies on LNG imports to meet heating needs. The Cadiz Knutsen's arrival comes just as local spot prices reached $15 per million British thermal units, which is almost quadruple the benchmark U.S. futures contract.
U.S. gas futures climbed for a fourth day to $4.277 per million Btu at 4:05 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The looming nor'easter, as well as tensions in Ukraine, are contributing to the gains. Meanwhile, New England on-peak power averaged $172.26 a megawatt-hour for Thursday, keeping prices in recent weeks at the highest levels for this time of year since at least 2017, according to grid data compiled by MCG Energy Solutions.
Cape Cod will likely waver between snow and rain, because warmer-than-normal water temperatures in the Atlantic will moderate the snow, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services, which provides outlooks to Bloomberg Radio.
A storm undergoes a rapid shift known as bombogenesis if its central pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. Meteorologists often refer to this process as a storm "bombing out."
Some models show it dropping 55 millibars in 24 hours, which would be historic, Carolan said.
Before the snow arrives, temperatures will plummet Wednesday night. The low in Manhattan is forecast to drop to 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius) overnight, while Philadelphia will see lows of 12, Washington 13 and Boston 3, according to the National Weather Service.
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