A cold front from the west is sweeping onto the East Coast with heavy rain, a chance of tornadoes and high winds that are disrupting air traffic from Boston to Washington, the National Weather Service said.
Showers and wind that started before dawn in New York will be followed by rain and possibly tornado-spawning severe thunderstorms later today, said Tim Morrin, an agency meteorologist in Upton, New York.
Tornado watches were posted from North Carolina to New York state. The New York City area is under a watch until 7 p.m.
Airports including New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International halted traffic or reported delays of as much as three hours, according the Federal Aviation Administration’s website. High wind from the passage of the front may mean worse conditions for flights.
“Just the magnitude of the wind strength, gusting over 40 miles per hour, you would expect that at all the terminals for sure,” Morrin said.
At least 58 flights into and out of LaGuardia were canceled by 5 p.m., according to the Houston-based Flight Aware tracking service. In Philadelphia, 59 flights were scrubbed and 39 were halted at Reagan National in Washington.
There is a 5 percent chance tornadoes will form from about Albany, New York, to North Carolina, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
A wind advisory, warning of gusts as strong as 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, stretched from Maine to Delaware and is effect until 6 a.m. tomorrow in New York, according to the weather service. There’s a 45 percent chance high winds will sweep the East Coast from New York City to coastal Virginia, the storm center said.
Winds have already toppled trees and torn down utility wires from New York to Florida, according to the center. More than 20,000 people are without power in the mid-Atlantic states, according to utility company estimates.
The gusty winds will last through the night and will mainly come from the passing of the front, Morrin said. There may also be severe thunderstorms that push wind speeds as high as 60 mph, he said.
The winds may make it difficult to drive, especially larger trucks, and knock down utility lines, causing power failures, according to the weather service.
Morrin said there is a chance of flooding because as much as 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain may fall in a short period of time, overwhelming the ground’s ability to absorb it.