Powerful coastal storm brings snow, rain and dangerous winds to tri-state area

NEW YORK — Neighborhoods in the tri-state area are experiencing the effects of a winter storm bringing a ferocious mix of howling winds, drenching rain, snow and surging waves.

Rain began overnight and transitioned into snow during the morning commute.

Heavy winds have downed trees and wires, causing major transit and traffic issues as well as thousands to lose power across NYC. Among the issues commuters will face is on Amtrak, which has suspended service between Washington D.C. and Boston.

The strongest winds are expected in the next few hours, the National Weather Service tweeted at 1:15 p.m.

Con Edison has reported more than 2,000 customers without power in New York City. PSE&G reported over 500 customers without power.

Here's what to expect:

Heavy snow

Snow that falls in the region will be heavy and wet, likely to bring down trees and power lines, and cause power outages.

"Snowfall amounts of 12 to 18 inches are expected in New York, with even higher values in central New York," the weather service tweeted.

Hundreds of flights canceled

About 2,800 flights involving US airports are canceled, Flight tracking website posted Friday.

Several airlines, including Delta, United and Southwest, are offering fee waivers for flight cancellations or changes involving airports in affected cities.

About a quarter of all scheduled flights at Kennedy Airport, which reported gusts up to 63 mph, were canceled as of late Friday morning and a ground stop halted all inbound flights as of 2 p.m. All flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport were suspended due to winds around 1 p.m.

Coastal flooding

Even if the storm doesn't become a "bomb cyclone," New York's eastern Long Island and New Jersey will feel its effects.

With the moon full, the tide is at its highest point of the month, and the storm surge could drive up to 4 feet of water into coastal neighborhoods.

With the storm moving slowly, its wind, rain and flood effects will linger for days.

"Mostly minor and some moderate flooding is expected in southern New England and New York on Friday and Saturday," the National Weather Service said.

In New Jersey, officials are also expecting heavy rain to flood some rivers and streams, and affect drainage.

"If you are told to evacuate from a flooded area, GO!" the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management said.

Strong winds

The winds will be so ferocious. So much so, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is securing cranes at a LaGuardia Airport construction project. It's also making plans to use buses if trains at JFK or Newark airports are stopped because of the wind.

Emergency operations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has activated the State Emergency Operations Center. Cuomo urged residents to pay attention to weather forecasts.

"As the saying goes, March is coming in like a lion and we are preparing for heavy snow, rain, and flooding across New York this weekend," he said. . " ... I am asking for everyone to ... take the necessary precautions to prepare for conditions."

In New Jersey, officials activated a state emergency operations center. It urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel.

CNN contributed to this report.