The winter storm slamming the East Coast is becoming a ‘bomb cyclone’ — and the National Weather Service says it could be a life-or-death situation

Winter Storm Riley, as The Weather Channel has named it, is dumping rain and snow and whipping the East Coast with wind gusts that could reach hurricane force.

The storm is undergoing a rapid intensification process called “bombogenesis,” which means its central pressure is dropping quickly (an indicator of a storm’s strength).

So-called bomb-cyclone conditions are not uncommon for nor’easters, but this one could be even more intense than the storm earlier this year and cause record flooding and intense damage.

According to the Boston branch of the National Weather Service, this storm is on par with the most intense nor’easters in recent history, including storms in December 1992 and April 1997.

As of Friday morning, wind gusts exceeding 70 mph had hit the Washington, DC, area, and snow was falling in New York and the Northeast, with more to come.

By 10 a.m., the storm had knocked out power to more than 500,000 homes and businesses and caused more than 2,000 flight cancellations.

“Riley will be a Nor’easter with major impacts on many different scales across a large area,” Tom Niziol, an expert on winter storms with the Weather Channel, told Business Insider in a statement.

The heavy winds are expected to batter the coasts and inland mountain regions, knocking down trees and power lines.

They’re also expected to exacerbate coastal flooding. In Boston, experts are predicting moderate to major flooding for three tide cycles.

A 3-foot storm surge is coming into the city on top of approximately 11-foot tides, with two high tides today and one tomorrow.

The flooding could set records in the city and be worse than the January 4 storm, during which parts of Boston were inundated with icy water.

Meanwhile, massive waves are stretching down the coast to Bermuda.

“All in all, Winter Storm Riley will bring in the month of March like a roaring lion,” Niziol said.

This article first appeared at businessinsider.com

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