Snowstorm eyes Northeast after sparing Washington

A bobcat tractor removes snow around traveler's cars covered in snow in the parking lot of Dulles International Airport, March 6, 2013, in Sterling, Virginia, a few miles outside of Washington, DC . Federal offices and many schools have closed in preparation for a mix of snow, sleet and rain which could account for the area's largest winter storm in two years. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) PAUL J. RICHARDS

Last Updated 2:17 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON An unpredictable winter storm that buried parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions with snow but barely laid a glove on Washington was bound early Thursday for New England, where it was expected to bring strong winds, more snow and the possibility of coastal flooding to New England.

At least eight deaths in four states have been blamed on the weather.

New Englanders were bracing for the brunt of the storm Thursday evening and Friday morning.

The National Weather Service was predicting up to 7 inches of heavy, wet snow in southeastern Connecticut and wind gusts that could hit 50 mph. A coastal flood warning was in effect starting Thursday morning for east-facing shores in Massachusetts, with up to a 3-foot surge at high tide in some areas. Central Massachusetts was bracing for 4 to 8 inches of snow, while early predictions were that Boston would get less.

Dozens of car crashes were reported across Connecticut Thursday morning. A FedEx tractor trailer overturned on Interstate 84 in Tolland, causing a chain-reaction crash involving about nine other vehicles, including a state police cruiser and two other tractor-trailers. The eastbound side of the highway was closed for hours Thursday morning, but no serious injuries were reported.

Sera Congi of CBS station WBZ-TV in Boston reported on "CBS This Morning" Thursday that this storm is expected to be a long one -- lasting 36 hours, through three high tide cycles -- with as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas of New England.

Waves and winds are expected to batter the coastline. Coastal flood warnings are in effect and at least two towns have already urged residents to evacuate before Thursday morning's high tide, Congi said.

"It will snow on and off, heavy at times today, tonight, and also through a good portion of tomorrow," said meteorologist Jeff Berardelli of CBS station WFOR-TV.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency and about 50 National Guard soldiers were sent out to help clear roads. Up to 20 inches of snow piled up in central and western parts of the state. More than 200,000 customers in Virginia lost power.

In southwest Virginia, a 22-year-old man was killed early Thursday after his vehicle ran off an icy Route 632, went over an embankment and landed upside down in a creek.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard says two other storm-related deaths occurred in the northern part of the state. She didn't have details Thursday.

In eastern Kentucky state police said a woman was killed Wednesday night in Whitesburg when she lost control of her vehicle on an icy road and struck another vehicle.

At least four other deaths were blamed on the storm, including two people killed when a semi-trailer slid off a snow-covered interstate in western Wisconsin. A central Indiana woman died when a semi-trailer plowed into her car after she lost control merging onto the highway. Also, a man from Columbia City in northeast Indiana was killed when his snowmobile left the road, headed across a field and crashed into a wire fence.

The storm marched into the Mid-Atlantic region Wednesday, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow in some places and knocking out power to about 250,000 homes and businesses. It largely spared the nation's capital, which was expecting much worse and had all but shut down.

Officials in Washington didn't want a repeat of 2011, when a rush-hour snowstorm stranded commuters for hours, so they told people to stay off the roads and gave workers the day off.

According to Flightaware.com, more than 4,400 flights were cancelled in the U.S. due to the weather.

As the storm moved up the coast Wednesday night, it brought heavy winds to the Jersey Shore, still reeling from superstorm Sandy. Streets in Sea Bright, N.J., were flooding Thursday morning.

In Mantoloking, N.J., the Jersey shore town hardest-hit by Sandy, pounding surf broke through a temporary dune during the early-morning high tide. The dune breach forced the closing of a major coastal highway for several hours, but the highway re-opened late Thursday morning.

Detective Stacy Ferris said the breach spanned three oceanfront properties, sending 3 to 6 inches of water flowing through onto the highway. As a result, officials closed portion of Route 35.

The state Department of Transportation, along with Mantoloking's own public works crews and contractors, were busy scooping and pushing sand back into the breach to prepare for high tide, expected at about 3 p.m. Thursday.

"We're going to plug that hole before the next high tide," Ferris said.

Every one of the 521 homes in Mantoloking was damaged to some degree by Sandy. Many were completely destroyed and hundreds of others suffered major damage.

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