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Storm's worst likely after nightfall

As of midafternoon, Philadelphia, its suburbs and much of South Jersey had yet to feel the wrath of a strong nor'easter turned winter storm.

As of midafternoon, Philadelphia, its suburbs and much of South Jersey had yet to feel the wrath of a strong nor'easter turned winter storm.

The strongest gusts were less than 30 m.p.h. across the region, and temperatures were in the mid-30s, warm enough to prevent bouts of light snow or sleet from sticking to roads.

Winds could pick up considerably, temperatures should fall, and bursts of snow could still cause some problems for drivers late this afternoon into this evening.

More than a half-inch of snow was already reported in Salem and Atlantic Counties, with two to five inches possible along the I-95 corridor.

Or not. "It is possible that snow accumulations in the warning area could be overdone," according to National Weather Service advisory.

Winds are the biggest threat, especially in towns hard-hit Oct. 29 by Hurricane Sandy, with additional power outages possible.

More than 360,000 homes and businesses were still without power early this afternoon from New Jersey's Ocean County to densely populated North Jersey.

Toms River and Brick Township were under mandatory evacuations, because of flooding and other safety concerns.

Speaking in Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Island, Gov. Christie joked midday, "I'm waiting for the locusts and pestilence next." He talked about efforts to strengthen dunes, board up buildings and ready shelters, with help from the National Guard, the Red Cross and a legion of tired workers.

With river and stream levels back near normal, little inland flooding is feared, he said.

Drivers might want to avoid less-traveled suburban roads this evening, because periods of heavy snow could create headaches, said meteorologist Anthony Gigi of the Mount Holly Office of the National Weather Service.

"The main arteries should be better," he said.

Warmth toward the Shore should mean more rain than snow, while a lack of moisture will mean less precipitation of any kind west of Philadelphia.

The Thursday morning commute should be better. "Most of the heavier precipitation should be done by 1 or 2 in the morning, so there should be plenty of time to get the roads in shape," Gigi said.

Possible gusts of up to 60 m.p.h. weren't the only worry at the Shore. Tidal flooding, with two high tides during the storm, could be two feet or more above normal. Sandy's storm surge was far worse, obliterating records.

Although the wind might keep snow from weighing down trees, "there are going to be renewed outages," Gigi said.

The storm shouldn't "be anywhere near the magnitude of Sandy … but we're taking it seriously," said Bill Gee, of the Ocean County Emergency Management Office, and a deputy fire marshall. It's likely, he said, that no one will be allowed to enter the barrier islands, such as Long Beach Island, which were devastated by Sandy. And officials are watching Mantoloking where the ocean flowed into the bay and washed out the main bridge connecting to the mainland.

On a positive note regarding the snow, in many areas, the ground was still warm so that any light stuff might quickly melt, except on grass and cars.

The storm will linger into Thursday before moving onto New England.

Staff writer Frank Kummer contributed to this article. Contact the breaking news desk at 215-854-2443 or