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The Boston Globe

Metro

Storm may bring major coastal flooding

Here it comes.

Beginning tonight, the storm lumbering toward Massachusetts will bring up to 10 inches of wet cement-like snow in some areas, major coastal flooding in others, and strong, gusty winds across the state through Friday morning, the National Weather Service said today.

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On the coast, strong northeast winds between 20 and 40 miles per hour will coincide with three high tide cycles beginning Thursday morning. The entire east-facing shoreline is under a coastal flood warning beginning tonight through Friday morning. South of Boston will see the highest threat for major flooding, including Scituate, Hull, Plymouth, and Sandwich, said meteorologist Charlie Foley.

“Our biggest concern is the coastal flooding threat,” Foley said.

The city of Boston is also under a flood watch, the weather service said.

By Friday morning, more than 36 hours worth of winds will pile the water up, creating moderate to major coastal flooding, the weather service said.

By that time, 19- to 20-foot waves are expected in Sandwich Harbor, with 19- to 26-foot waves in Chatham East, 23- to 25-foot waves in Scituate, and 21- to 23-foot waves in Gloucester Harbor.

“There is going to be considerable beach erosion with this storm due to the prolonged nature of gusty winds,” Foley said.

Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said coastal flooding is the major concern for this storm in terms of the potential public emergencies. He said the expected beach erosion could lead to the demise of more beachfront homes as has happened this year in several communities along the entire Massachusetts coastline.

“It’s not going to surprise us,’’ he said of the prospect of more houses collapsing.

He said emergency response teams will be closely watching high tide at 7 a.m. Thursday, the first of the three high tide cycles. The most dangerous high tide is expected to be the morning high tide on Friday, he said.

The wind won’t help inland, either.

Branches and power lines made vulnerable by earlier storms could easily succumb to the combination of heavy, wet snow and high winds. Sloppy snow is expected to fall through Friday morning, with an inch expected in Boston by daybreak Thursday and another 2 to 4 inches during the day.

Winds, already 20 to 30 miles per hour, will pick up Thursday afternoon, gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Temperatures will reach the mid-30s Thursday.

“The biggest problem would be the heavy, cement-like snow on power lines and branches with wind on top, puts a lot of stress,” Foley said. “Power outages will be a problem.”

Even more snow is expected overnight into Friday, with lows in the low 30s. By the end of the storm, Boston and the northwest metro area could see 6 to 8 inches of snow, with 8 to 10 inches expected from Worcester into the western South Shore, 2 to 4 inches on Cape Cod, and 4 to 6 inches on Cape Ann and areas west of Worcester.

Most of the city of Boston should only see slush to 3 inches, according to David Epstein, a meteorologist who blogs for boston.com.

The storm will drop snow from New York City to Boston, with heavy snow accumulating up to a foot in areas of Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, according to Accuweather.com. The worst travel conditions are expected tonight into Thursday as heavy precipitation overcomes warm road surface temperatures.

The elderly and individuals with heart conditions should find someone else to shovel sidewalks and driveways, Foley said. If temperatures warm more than expected, areas in the lower Merrimack Valley could see flooding conditions, too.

For once, the storm will spare the weekend, with skies clearing by Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday will see mostly sunny skies and highs in the low to mid 40s, though the storm’s northeasterly winds will linger.

“Hold out to the weekend and you’re fine,” Foley said.

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.dezenski@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauren_dez.
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