The "bomb cyclone" is slamming the northeast, with multiple deaths, winds above 90 miles per hour and over a million homes and businesses without power. If you live anywhere near the northeast, you may be wondering how to track Winter Storm Riley, as it's expected to continue affecting the region throughout the weekend.
If Riley were a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center would almost certainly have a website dedicated to tracking it. But despite the havoc it's wreaking on the east coast, Riley hasn't reached hurricane status. It's merely a winter storm, and as such, there isn't any one centralized place to track its path and forecast.
Thankfully, keeping tabs on the storm's progress is rather easy, thanks to the National Weather Service. On Twitter, the Boston division of NWS has been diligently providing updates on Riley's impact in New England. The NWS New York Twitter account has been especially active in tracking the storm's progress in the New York area, and the NWS Eastern Region account is offering up more sporadic updates on Riley and its projected path.
If social media isn't your thing, don't worry: The Weather Channel has been devoting most of its coverage to Riley since it made landfall on Thursday, and will likely keep doing until the storm dissipates.
Make no mistake: This storm is serious business. As of this writing, there have been six reported deaths as a result of the storm; all of the victims were killed by trees that were knocked over or broken as a result of the storm's winds, according to the Weather Channel. It's resulted in flooding across the northeastern seaboard, widespread wind and tree damage in the Washington D.C. area, and voluntary evacuations in at least one coastal Massachusetts city.
About 1.6 million homes and businesses have lost power, and over 7,000 flights were delayed or cancelled on Friday alone on account of the storm. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth, while Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has mobilized 200 members of the National Guard to prepare for anticipated damage from the storm.
"Take this storm seriously!," the Boston division of the NWS Boston warned on Twitter. "This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast, esp those ocean-exposed shorelines; moderate to major flooding; locations becoming inundated, cut off for periods of time; expect structural damage, homes destroyed."
Although Riley isn't technically a hurricane, it's already brought hurricane-force winds in at least one city: According to NWS Boston, winds in Barnstable, Massachusetts reached 93 miles per hour on Friday. By contrast, a storm qualifies as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale if its winds reach 74 miles per hour.
One reason Riley has been so intense for a winter storm is that on Friday, it underwent a process known as "bombogenesis." That's when the atmospheric pressure in a storm drops by 24 millibars in a 24 hour period, causing its strength to rapidly intensify. Because of this, Riley is now a "bomb cyclone" (the colloquial phrase for storms that have undergone bombogenesis), and that's made it stronger than it otherwise would have been.
"This 'bomb cyclone' wind field is larger than most Category 1 hurricanes, with winds to match," meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weather.us told USA TODAY on Friday.
Riley also resulted in what must have been a thoroughly disgusting situation for passengers on a Friday flight into Washington D.C.: As a pilot reported to the NWS Aviation Weather Center, the storm apparently caused such severe turbulence during the flight that nearly everyone on the plane vomited.