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BOSTON (CBSNews.com)- Coastal towns in Massachusetts were bracing for powerful waves and commuters were facing a tough morning drive as a nor'easter offshore brought waves of snow, strong wind and ocean water to New England.

Snowfall of 8 to 12 inches was forecast in central Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island by Friday morning, with 6 to 10 inches in Boston and nearby areas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham says it will be a "conveyor belt of wave after wave of snow" coming in. "That will be continuing all night," he added.

But powerful ocean waves and high winds were expected to cause more trouble than snow from Rhode Island to Maine. A coastal flood warning was in effect for east-facing shores in Massachusetts, with possible 3-foot surges at high tide.

The late-winter storm that buried parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic swept into New England on Thursday, and the region braced for the brunt of the storm overnight into Friday.

"The main problem," explains meteorologist Terry Eliasen, executive weather producer of CBS Boston station WBZ-TV, "is the persistent, strong east wind just will not relent, so the water which rushes in for high tide will not ever be able to fully escape back out to sea.

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