BOSTON (AP) -- A major Nor'easter started to slam the East Coast on Friday with heavy rain, intermittent snow and strong winds.
Gusts exceeding 50 mph are expected as the storm moves up the Eastern seaboard, with possible hurricane-strength winds of 80 to 90 mph on Cape Cod. From Boston down through Rhode Island, 2 to 5 inches of snow is expected.
Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated 200 National Guard members to help with the storm.
"We're expecting to see more severe flooding issues here than we did in the Jan. 4 storm," when a Nor'easter lashed the region with heavy snow and rain, he said.
Residents were taking matters into their own hands.
In Duxbury, south of Boston, officials urged people to evacuate as soon as possible, and the fire department was preparing to use a high water rescue vehicle for the first time to help any residents who wind up stuck in homes during high floodwaters.
Michelle Shaffer, 45, of the coastal Massachusetts town of Hull, lost her appliances under 5 feet of water during the last big storm.
"I have a new washer, and my boyfriend just built a wooden platform for it. We got a couple of sump pumps," said Shaffer, who evacuated to higher ground Thursday night. "This storm is going to be worse because it's going over three high tides," she said.
The Coast Guard advised boaters to exercise "vigilance and extreme caution." The National Weather Service warned that the storm would morph into heavier, wet snow later Friday.
In New Jersey, officials worried it could take a chunk out of beaches just south of Atlantic City that are still being repaired because of damage from previous storms.
The heaviest snowfall is expected to be in parts of western New York into northern Pennsylvania, with 8 to 12 inches likely.
Across the East Coast, authorities told residents of coastal communities to be prepared to evacuate if necessary in advance of Friday morning's high tide. The weather service said all of Rhode Island was under flood and high wind watches through Sunday morning.
Airlines were making their own preparations. Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and American Airlines were allowing travelers to change their Friday and Saturday flights ahead of time to avoid delays and cancellations at key airports across the Northeast.
Regional power utilities said they had extra crews on standby to deal with expected outages.