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Storm could bring 16 inches of snow, 60-mile-per-hour gusts

A man carried his shovel while working during a storm on Main Street in Plymouth in 2017.Craig Walker/Globe Staff

A powerful storm could bring as much as 16 inches of snow, blasting winds, and coastal flooding to some areas of Massachusetts as it sweeps up the coast Friday into Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters issued a winter storm watch Wednesday for parts of eastern, northeastern, and southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, predicting that between 8 and 16 inches of snow could fall. Winds could gust as high as 60 miles per hour, especially on Cape Cod.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” forecasters warned. “Strong winds could cause tree damage.”

NWS meteorologist Bill Simpson said the snow is forecast to arrive in Western Massachusetts late Friday afternoon and make it to the Boston area by the evening commute.

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Forecasters cautioned that the track of the storm is still uncertain and the projected areas of heaviest snowfall could shift.

“The key message continues to be the same: guidance is trending favorably for a big storm, but the exact track remains uncertain,” the forecasters said in an online posting. Details “will be more clear as we approach and get a grasp of the track.”

An NWS forecast map suggested that as much as 18 inches of snow could fall along the coast and in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The map calls for up to a foot of snow through central Massachusetts, with smaller amounts to the west. Simpson described the map as a “very preliminary” forecast.

The National Weather service on Wednesday issued a snowfall forecast but said it was "very preliminary."NWS Boston

As the storm moves up from the Carolina coast, it’s expected to rapidly intensify and “bomb out” or undergo bombogenesis, a term for a swift pressure drop. That will mean that “strong, potentially damaging winds will accompany the snow,” meteorologists said.

In parts of southeastern Massachusetts, heavy snow and wind could create white-out conditions, forecasters said. Coastal flooding is also a concern due to astronomically high tides on Saturday.

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“The combination of strong northeast winds and high seas will bring storm surges that, if coinciding with high tide, would lead to minor or moderate coastal flooding,” forecasters said.

In an online briefing, meteorologist Rodney Chai said minor flooding is expected during Saturday morning’s high tide due to the “multi-faceted” storm, but the bigger concern could come during the afternoon high tide when the seas and winds will be higher. Minor flooding is also possible Sunday morning, he said.

Chai urged mariners to stay in port, saying they could face gusts that reach hurricane strength, and seas of 25 to 30 feet. “It’s going to be very hazardous,” he said.

Forecasters said the storm will also “bring significant winter impacts to parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including the I-95 major metro areas.”

By Sunday morning, the center of the low-pressure system will be “north of Nova Scotia and lifting quickly away from New England,” forecasters said.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.