Forecast for New England includes snow, freezing rain

Posted April 22, 2012, at 10:49 a.m.
Last modified April 22, 2012, at 2:24 p.m.

NEW YORK — A spring nor’easter along the East Coast on Sunday is expected to bring rain and heavy winds and even snow in some places as it strengthens into early Monday, a punctuation to a relatively dry stretch of weather for the Northeast.

Flood watches are posted in some parts of northern New England. Occasional rain Sunday afternoon is expected to give way to much heavier, steadier rain Sunday night and Monday.

The storm is atypical for April but not uncommon, said David Stark, a National Weather Service meteorologist in New York City, where 2½ to 3½ inches of rain are expected in the city with wind gusts of 25-30 mph.

With the storm came a spate of disruptions. Pro baseball games were postponed in New York and Washington. The space shuttle Enterprise’s scheduled Sunday arrival in New York City was pushed back. An Earth Day celebration at a park in Virginia Beach, Va., was canceled.

Some higher-elevation areas in western parts of Pennsylvania and New York could even see snow. Eight to 12 inches of snowfall were forecast for a few counties in western Pennsylvania and 3-4 inches in and around Pittsburgh.

The National Weather Service has posted a flood watch covering much of southern Maine and New Hampshire through Monday evening. The weather service says the better chances for heavy rain will be along the east slopes of higher terrain.

In Down East Maine, a gale watch is posted through Monday night along the coast.

In Vermont, a flood watch is in effect for Bennington and Windham counties Sunday evening through Monday morning, with 1-3 inches of rain expected and up to 4 inches possible.

Despite the threat of flooding, precipitation in much of the Northeast is running below normal for this time of year.

“We’re down 7 or 8 inches,” weather service forecaster Charlie Foley said. “This won’t completely wipe out the deficit but it will certainly help.”

Even Lake Champlain on the Vermont-New York border, normally close to flood stage this time of year because of rain and snowmelt, is near a record low. Just a year ago, it approached its highest level on record.

The storm’s biggest threat is likely power outages caused by falling trees and limbs bringing down power lines, said meteorologist John Darnley.

Another unseasonable nor’easter last year just before Halloween dumped up to 2 feet of wet, heavy snow that snapped tree limbs and power lines, and knocked out power to more than 3 million customers in the Northeast. In Connecticut, it broke a state record for the number of power company customers left in the dark by a single storm that had been set only two months earlier when the remnants of Hurricane Irene slammed the state as it barreled up the Eastern Seaboard.

The worst of the flooding from Irene was in Vermont and northern New York, where cleanups continue seven months later. Farmers are still grappling with crop-smothering rocks, trees, gravel and sand left behind when the flood waters receded. But the dry weather has eased the threat the debris that litters the landscape will rush downriver again.

Farther south, light rain was falling Sunday morning over the Baltimore and Washington metro areas and was expected to intensify throughout the day, said meteorologist Carrie Suffren, who warned drivers to beware of low visibility and slick roadways. She cautioned boaters on the Chesapeake Bay of the winds.

Elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic, parts of eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey could see up to 4 inches of rain, with the heaviest downfall expected early Monday.

In Rockport, Mass., the approaching storm forced police to halt until Tuesday a search for a missing 2-year-old girl who apparently disappeared from a beach Thursday when her mother went to retrieve a lost ball. The beach is known for strong riptides.

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