More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power in the Northeast and Midwest, more than 2,600 U.S. flights were cancelled and the control tower at Dulles International Airport outside Washington was briefly evacuated due to dangerous high winds.
The first flood surge came at an extreme high tide, which occurred a little after 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT) in Boston, the second time this year parts of the city flooded.
"It's crazy. I guess this is sea-level rise in action," said Bob Flynn, 38, who had stepped out from his work at Boston's Children's Museum to survey a partially submerged walkway along the city's Fort Point Channel.
Officials warned that strong winds off the ocean could keep waters high and posed a risk of even higher flood levels at the next two high tides, due near midnight (0500 Saturday GMT) and noon Saturday (1700 GMT). They urged people in Boston's coastal suburbs who had evacuated their homes during the morning floods not to return until the storm passed.
High wind gusts approaching 70 miles per hour (113 km per hour)contributed to the flooding, by driving water in, and the extensive power outages, by downing trees and power lines.
"The winds are going to keep on increasing and the seas are going to go higher and higher for the next three high tide cycles," said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The winds also snarled travel. New York's LaGuardia airport halted all arrivals and departures due to high winds on Friday afternoon. More than a quarter of flights into and out of New York's two other major airports and Boston's airport were cancelled, according to tracking service Flightaware.com. Passenger railroad Amtrak halted service between New York, Boston and Washington.
One flight landing at Washington's Dulles Airport came in through turbulence so rough that most passengers became sick and the pilots were on the verge of becoming sick, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Residents of coastal areas that regularly flood in storms had been encouraged to evacuate their homes and head to higher ground, said Chris Besse, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
He added that it is hard to predict where the storm will take its heaviest toll.
"It could be that the first high tide washes away dunes from one beach and the second washes away houses," Besse said.
Sarah Moran, a 59-year-old mother of six, was fretting whether her family's oceanfront home in Scituate, Massachusetts, south of Boston, would survive.
"Every house south of mine has been washed away since the 1978 blizzard. That risk is part of the package - the house comes complete with ocean views, taxes, maintenance and risks," she said in a phone interview from Burlington, Vermont.
The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine through coastal North Carolina, including New York's eastern suburbs, and was also tracking a snowstorm heading east out the Ohio Valley that could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State.
More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power across the region, with the largest number of outages spread across Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and New York state, utilities said.
Southern California was also facing weather dangers, with risks of rain-driven mudslides prompting mandatory evacuations ordered for some 30,000 people living near fire-scarred hills around the Santa Barbara coast.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Alana Wise and Gina Cherelus in New York, David Shepardson in Washington, and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jonathan Oatis)
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)