Computer models and their human interpreters are becoming more confident that a significant coastal storm is going to blow up during the weekend.
On Wednesday, forecasters nudged the timetable forward, and the National Weather Service says the rains and winds are likely to get started around here late Friday night.
The New Jersey Shore could endure a prolonged period of sustained onshore winds into Saturday afternoon, with gale-force gusts past 40 mph, the National Weather Service said in its forecast late Tuesday. Minor tidal flooding is expected, with a potential for moderate flooding.
Some elevated areas in New England could see the season's first major snowfall, but around here, unless something otherworldly happens, we'll likely have chilly rain, probably centering on Saturday.
Being on the western flank of the counterclockwise circulation around the storm center, winds in the region would be from the east and northeast — thus "nor'easter" — and that would all but rule out any snow.
Sea-surface temperatures off the Jersey coast, even in North Jersey, are still in the 60s, several degrees above normal. And at this time of year, "any time the wind comes off the ocean, it's likely to be rain," said Tom Kine, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.
Winds off the ocean, however, have more than one downside for the region.
They tend to generate sand-removing waves. Also, with the ground soggy from weeks of heavy rains, a so-called counter-wind from the east — as opposed the prevailing winds from the west — is particularly threatening to trees with saturated roots.
With models suggesting strong gusts, especially south and east of the city, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly warned of a potential for winds "to knock down a few trees/power lines."
As it develops in the Gulf of Mexico, the storm is expected to get a jolt of juice from the remnants of erstwhile Pacific Hurricane Willa, which are forecast to cross Mexico and approach the Gulf, according to the Weather Prediction Center.
Those remnants could inject moisture into the storm before it turns north, parallel the Atlantic Coast, and gets another charge from the ultra-warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the center says.
Such storms are not all that unusual in late October; a major nor'easter interrupted the World Series in Philadelphia in 2008.
This time of year, the temperature contrasts that set off storms sharpen in the Northern Hemisphere, as opposed to the less-dramatic contrasts in the warm seasons.
Typically, however, Philadelphia snowstorms don't appear until late December or January as the Atlantic cools off.
What does an early-season storm mean for the coming winter? Probably nothing, Kine said. This is not necessarily a harbinger of anything, save for a bad weekend for leaf-peeping.
On the other hand, the leaf viewing around here might not be all that great even if the weather is splendid, as it has been quite a muted foliage season so far.