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New England Flooding, Coastal Concerns

By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist
March 19, 2013; 12:52 PM ET
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It is not just heavy snow returning to New England Monday night and Tuesday.

The same complex storm set to unleash the heavy snow will also bring the potential for localized flooding from soaking rain and coastal erosion.

Flooding Rainfall, Melting Snow

Frequent storms during the second half of the winter, some bringing snow, rain or a combination thereof, have loaded the potential for quick runoff in some Central, Eastern and Southern states.

The storm coming along Monday and Tuesday could exploit this potential.

This satellite and computer-generated map from the National Weather Service (NWS) shows the amount of water present in the existing snow cover as of March 17, 2013. While mostly snow will fall on the areas with thick snow cover, it is on the fringe areas where problems with rain and runoff could occur.

The area at greatest risk for flooding from Monday night through Tuesday is southeastern New England, where snow and any ice at the storm's onset changes to a soaking rain.

In many cases across southeastern New England, the ground is saturated from recent bouts of heavy snow and streams and rivers are already running high.

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The rain could fall fast and heavy, causing some small streams to flood rapidly. Larger rivers could rise to near bank full, raising concerns for unprotected, low-lying areas.

The potential for minor flooding problems due to locally drenching thunderstorms also encompasses the South and part of the Ohio Valley through Monday. States outside of the Northeast that could be impacted by flooding include Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.

Coastal Erosion

There is the potential for a period of strong onshore wind that can raise sea and surf along the New England coast Monday night into Tuesday.

Ocean waves crash over a seawall and into houses along the coast in Scituate, Mass., Thursday, March 7, 2013. A shorter period of strong wind, coastal flooding and beach erosion could occur with the storm forecast for Monday night into Tuesday in New England. Coastal conditions next week should be less severe than that of the storm shown here. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The wind direction will be different than the storm that hit earlier in March. Winds during that storm were primarily from the northeast. The onshore winds will be from the east and southeast this time and could reach 60 mph in some coastal locations.

There is potential for erosion not only along the recently slammed east coast of Massachusetts, but also part of the south coast of New England in general, portions of Long Island and areas farther north in Maine.

AccuWeather meteorologists believe the period of onshore flow and above-normal tides will be much more brief from New Jersey to Delmarva Peninsula with this storm and expect few problems.

From eastern Long Island and the south coast of New England through Maine, water levels will generally peak between 1 and 2 feet above published values. However, there can be some exceptions. A few spots from along the east coast of Massachusetts through Maine can experience a water level rise of 2 to 3 feet above published values.

The period of concern for southern New England and Long Island would be Monday night into the first thing Tuesday. The concern Tuesday switches to the east coast of New England. Above-normal waters would continue into Tuesday night along the upper part of the Maine coast and into the Maritimes.

The greatest potential for coastal flooding would be around the time of scheduled high tide. The onshore wind could occur during one high tide cycle along the south coast of New England, but may span two high tide cycles farther north.

As we have stated earlier and like the last major storm, the period of above-normal water levels will not be made worse by astronomical forces. The moon is currently near the first quarter phase.

This story was first published on Friday, March 15, 2013, and was updated on Monday, March 18, 2013, at 8:24 a.m. EDT.

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