The Monster Nor’easter Storm Could Become a Bomb Cyclone. Here’s What That Means

March 2, 2018, 2:04 PM UTC

Here we go again.

For the second time this winter, the Northeast is bracing for a possible bomb cyclone, as Winter Storm Riley — the incoming “Nor’easter” — brings destructive coastal flooding and wind gusts of 74 mph and, in some places, has dropped more than 14 inches of snow already. Meteorologists say the process to create a bomb cyclone storm is already underway

That’s a bombastic term, but what does it mean? And how bad will it be if you’re in its path?

As with so many things when it comes to winter weather, the answer is: It depends. A bomb cyclone is essentially a powerful low-pressure system that rapidly intensifies. If you think that sounds a lot like a hurricane, you’re not too far off. The ‘bomb’ part of the name refers to a phenomenon in which the pressure inside a storm cell falls so quickly that it gives the storm explosive strength.

Technically, the term bomb cyclone comes from the scientific term “bombogenesis,” which is a storm that drops 24 millibars of pressure over 24 hours. (Researchers say climate change can be blamed for these sorts of events.)

That means the potential for hurricane or tropical storm force wind gusts is present. A 74 mph gust has already been clocked atop Chickaree Summit, Pennsylvania.

Other hurricane-like effects are already being felt, also. Power is already out for 500,000 people, federal offices are closed in Washington D.C., and parts of the Massachusetts coasts are under an evacuation order.