USA TODAY By John Bacon A powerful storm driving gale-force winds, heavy rains and flooding was roaring toward a long stretch of the East Coast on Sunday, creating conditions for a possible “bomb cyclone” poised to wreak havoc ahead of the holiday season.

More than 32 million Americans were under a wind advisory, the National Weather Service said. AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said winds will reach from 40 and 70 mph along the coast, with gusts of up to 85 mph possible. Gusts of 74 mph or greater are considered hurricane-force winds − a bomb cyclone is essentially a winter hurricane.

“There is the likelihood of damage along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts from this storm as it intensifies rapidly,” Rayno said. “A zone of strong winds (will push) water from the Atlantic toward the shoreline, while at the same time, heavy rain pours down.”

A stretch from North Carolina to Maine will see up to 4 inches of rain, and some highly localized areas could see up to 10 inches, AccuWeather said. Roads could become awash in water, snarling traffic Sunday night and for Monday’s morning rush hour.

The storm was rolling up from Florida and Georgia, and 35,000 homes and businesses in those states were without power early Sunday.

“Dangerous marine conditions” could continue into early next week as winds and seas will be slow to subside, the National Weather Service said. But conditions were expected to improve in Florida on Sunday into Monday.

Developments:

∎ Rivers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and much of New England could see flooding Monday and Tuesday as the runoff advances, AccuWeather said.

∎ Some areas of Philadelphia could see 4 inches of rain or more before the downpours end Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Storm batters Florida, Carolinas

Parts of Florida got up to 5 inches of rain, causing streets to flood and holiday celebrations to be canceled. The National Weather Service issued several flood warnings and advisories from the southwest Gulf Coast to Jacksonville.

Local authorities in Southwest Florida warned residents about coastal flooding across the region. “Today is not the day to go swimming or boating!” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Residents of coastal islands and Fort Myers, who were still recovering more than 14 months after Hurricane Ian, reported high waters near their homes.

“My house is completely surrounded by water,” Fort Myers Beach planning board vice-chair Jane Plummer said on Facebook. “My dock is underwater. (The) street is flooded coming down from the Gulf of Mexico. (The) water is rising around the back of my house from the bay.”

Meanwhile, Charleston, South Carolina, received about 4 inches of rain and the Charleston tide gauge was over 9 feet by midday Sunday. Numerous roads were closed in the city because of flooding.

Dreaming of a White Christmas? Not many will get one

Based on history, the chances are less than 50-50 of a white Christmas in more than half of US states, AccuWeather says. This year, forecasters say that only a few areas of the US have a high chance of snow on the ground − most of the Rockies and a few pockets of the interior Northeast. Some snow will also be possible in part of the High Plains and north-central US, as well as the Upper Midwest and areas downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, AccuWeather long-range forecast meteorologist Paul Pastelok says. But snow won’t get there in time in the Northeast, he said.

“There could be a period of rain and wet snow after the holiday,” Pastelok said.

The landmark Kuwait Towers and other skyscrapers pierce through the cloud cover over Kuwait City on December 10, 2023.

Contributing: Phil Fernandez, Fort Myers News-Press; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: East Coast braces for possible ‘bomb cyclone’ as furious storm roars in

Feature Photo Coconut trees are battered by heavy winds along the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami on Dec. 15, 2023.© Pedro Portal, AP