Icy rain left a decorative coating on trees yesterday in the northern and western suburbs, where the nasty weather provided an early holiday treat for students at about 60 schools that closed or sent children home early.

However, the wintry mess came up well short of expectations. And it might be a preview of the weekend, when another ballyhooed storm might fail to live up to its billing, at least around here.

In the meantime, a major weather event is expected today, especially for the Vitamin D deficient - the reappearance of the sun.

In a month that is light-deprived in any given year, this one has been 75 percent cloud-covered, according to National Weather Service data. And today could become just the second truly sunny day in December this year.

Don't get used to it, though.

A major coastal storm is all but certain tomorrow into Sunday, meteorologists and their various computer models agree. The nor'easter, so called for the strong onshore winds from the northeast that it generates, is expected to wring out heavy precipitation and incite beach-eating waves.

The one question remaining is how much snow is going to fall.

"There will be a nor'easter, and someone is going to get two feet out of this," said Tony Gigi, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly.

But probably not around here, he added.

"Ski areas in Vermont are going to have their prayers answered," Gigi said.

The big cities from Washington to New York are likely to see a quick shot of snow and sleet late tomorrow and then a rapid turnover to rain, predicted Ken Reeves, the director of forecast operations at Accu-Weather Inc., the commercial service in State College, Pa.

He thinks the storm will not be a big snowmaker here for the same reason that yesterday's wasn't: "It just looks too warm."

If anything, the storm could be a clinic on why White Christmases usually are confined to dreams in the region. The ocean temperatures off the Mid-Atlantic coast are in the mid-40s to low 50s, and coastal storms tend to draw in the warm overlying air, changing snow to rain. And that will be the fate of the weekend snow, Reeves said.

"When everyone gets up Sunday morning, there'll be no evidence of it whatsoever," he said.

Yesterday, the snow stayed well to the north of the region. That was because the invading cold air from the north couldn't hold its ground against a storm approaching from the southwest, Reeves said.

"The issue was that the colder air could not get cold enough, deep enough," he said. As late as 10 a.m. Tuesday, it was 57 at Philadelphia International Airport, and it never fell below freezing yesterday.

Justin Fleming, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said no major incidents were reported, with only about 8,000 power outages statewide. Peco reported none around here.

Only minor problems occurred on New Jersey roads, said Kris Kolluri, head of the state's transportation department.

Despite the spell of wintry weather and the cold that is due to linger into next week, Accu-Weather's Reeves still believes that a warm-up is coming and that January could be quite mild.

"The signs are there for changeover," he said.

In the meantime, it will be good to see the sun again. According to the National Institutes of Health, cloud cover inhibits the body's ability to absorb Vitamin D from the sun by 50 percent.

And sunlight is certainly more palatable than the No. 1 food source for the vitamin: cod-liver oil.

Contact staff writer Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.