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A blizzard in October? Major storm could bring foot of snow to eastern US.

The exact track of the storm is not yet clear, but snow, thunder, lightning, and downpours are all expected to be involved. Power outages could be a problem.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / October 28, 2011

A burst of snow falls in front of the Vernon, Conn., Town Hall during the first snowfall of the season Thursday. More snow is forecast in the Northeast on Saturday.

Jim Michaud/Journal Inquirer/AP

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New York

Just before Halloween, Mother Nature has decided to get scary: A nor’easter will be bearing down on the I-95 Corridor on Saturday.

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The storm is expected to have thunder and lightning as well as torrential downpours, which could result in flooding since the ground is already sodden.

And it won’t just be rain. In many areas – including Allentown, Pa.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Springfield, Mass. – there could be up to a foot of snow, with blizzardlike conditions during the day.

No, that is not a typographical error: a blizzard in October.

“This is a 50-year storm,” warns Henry Margusity, AccuWeather senior meteorologist. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen many of these areas get this kind of snow this early.”

According to meteorologists, this is a storm with the potential for major disruptions. In many areas, the trees still have their leaves. The heavy weight of the wet snow could make many branches fall on power lines and cars. The storm is also arriving during astronomical high tides, which could result in coastal flooding. Moreover, it will be arriving on a weekend that is full of Halloween parties and football games.

Yet the exact track of the storm is not yet clear, meteorologists say. Some computer models are predicting that big cities such as Washington, New York, and Boston will be on the fringe of the snow, getting no more than a few slushy inches.

“But some models show a significant snowstorm in the big cities,” cautions Adam Moyer, a meteorologist at Planalytics, a business weather forecasting service in Berwyn, Pa. “It’s likely the higher elevations will get over a foot.”

The conflicting reports have some communities nervously watching the storm. In Bethlehem, Pa., the Public Works Department is weighing whether to spread salt in advance of the storm or just wait.

“The ground should be warm enough so the snow melts on impact,” says Michael Alkhal, director of public works for the city. “It’s silly to spread salt if the snow will just melt on impact.”

The most damage is likely to come from power disruptions as the heavy snow pulls down branches, Mr. Margusity says. “Some rural areas of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey could be without power for three or four days,” he warns. “For some people who have electric heat, it could get quite chilly.”

Mr. Alkhal in Bethlehem says the storms this summer have already caused many trees to fall. “I’m hoping just the strong have survived,” he says. “But if we have to call out crews, close roads, and clean up, we will.”

The Saturday storm will also take its toll on businesses, says Evan Gold, a senior vice president at Planalytics. “This will be foot-traffic killer,” he predicts. But as soon as the storm departs the area, he says, it will be a catalyst to get people to the stores to buy winter clothing, snowblowers, and de-icer. “This will serve as a reminder to people what it was like last winter when we had a lot of snow and cold weather,” he says.

On Saturday, many high schools and colleges will be playing football – in the snow. Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., will host its homecoming game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At the moment, the area is expecting two to four inches of snow.

“That’s good football weather,” says Phil Wajda, Union’s director of media and public relations, who notes this will be the 109th meeting of the two schools. “This snow is not stopping anything.”

That’s also the attitude at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, which plans to hold its annual “Things That Go Bump in the Night” event on Saturday evening. Children will be able to go door to door to trick or treat, and older kids will be able to walk along the “Trail of Terror.”

Blizzard or not, the village will be open, says Ann Lindblad, vice president of communications.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with these type of forecasts,” Ms. Lindblad says. “You just never know: It could veer to the south and miss us. It’s done that before.”

Even if the storm does dump a lot of snow on the region, it won’t last long. On Sunday, it’s supposed to warm back up, says Mr. Moyer of Planalytics. “It will all melt,” he predicts. And by Monday night, Halloween, the weather is supposed to clear up, he says, and it will be a perfect night for trick-or-treating.

IN PICTURES: Space photos of the day – massive storms

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