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Local weather office flooded with calls: How much snow?

11 million people want to know: “How much?" Forecasts are still shifting, but as of noon Monday, the expectation is 8-12 inches in the Philly area. But there's also a wild card surfacing.

Not surprisingly, the phone calls keep coming at the Mount Holly National Weather Service Office. And, not surprisingly, the No. 1 question is "How much?"

Details continue to evolve, but as of noon Monday the best estimate was 8 to 12 inches in and around Philly.

But a wild card was surfacing: The updated models were showing several hours of sleet, perhaps 1 to 2 inches, a la the March 1993 blizzard.

That would cut down on snow totals, but add density to the snow and ice cover, making it slower to melt. Ice is a match even for the bright March sun.

"How much? How much?" that's all they care about, said Joe Miketta, the acting meteorologist in charge of the office. "Well, not all they care about," he conceded. But it is the primary question.

And one that isn't easy to answer. The inch count will depend not only on the precipitation amount but on the texture and shape of the flakes, how much water they are carrying, and how much sleet and/or rain mixes in.

"It goes well above freezing in Atlantic City," said Walt Drag, looking at the forecast guidance. Then he spotted what's in store for where he lives, in North Jersey. "Oh my, they're going to get creamed, they'll get 3-4 inches an hour."

"Sir, if you're calling to complain..." That's Mitchell Gaines, the meteorologist handling communications and the phone lines, on the other side of the forecast floor. He politely hangs up.

"We get a lot of calls, and once in a while we get someone who's a little agitated," he said.

As if the Mount Holly folks have nothing better to do.

The office serves more than 11 million people from Sussex County, Del., to Sussex County, N.J.

Its accumulation map shows totals ranging from 0 in the extreme south to 22 inches in northwest Jersey. Any slight change in the path of the storm could make a profound difference.

One thing was certain on Monday. In the immediate Philly area, it's going to snow. "All the models are converging," said Miketta.

The tricky part is the future of a warm layer aloft that would result in heavy sleet. Drag thinks a first round of snow, due to start about 10 p.m., would leave up to 4 inches, and then sleet would start falling around 2 a.m., changing back to snow sometime later in the morning.

When the snow does fall, it's going to be cosmically heavy, he said.

"North and west of 95, I don't how they'll keep up with it."

"It's a nasty storm," he said. "It's not the end of the world."