While the nation was consumed by dire predictions of a looming Halloween “Frankenstorm,” it felt like midsummer in Western New York on Thursday as the mercury hit 79 – smashing the record set back in 1963.
And while it will still be unseasonably warm again today, things will take a turn for the worse here over the weekend, with cool, soggy weather and highs only in the mid-40s.
Meanwhile, up and down the Eastern seaboard, all the spare parts appear to be coming together to create what forecasters are calling “Frankenstorm,” a monster combination of high winds, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe snow that could cause havoc along the East Coast just before Halloween.
As to whether this region will share the worst of the coming storm, it’s too early to tell, forecasters say.
There is, though, the possibility for the “s” word in Western New York.
Yes, snow, probably along the lines of a wintry mix of rain and snow.
“Not to stick or anything and not even to make a coating,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Hibbert said.
Hurricane Sandy, having blown through Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas on Thursday, leading to 21 deaths, continues to barrel north. A wintry storm is chugging across from the West. And frigid air is streaming south from Canada.
And if they meet Tuesday morning around New York or New Jersey, as forecasters predict, they could create a big, wet mess that settles over the nation’s most heavily populated corridor and reaches as far inland as Ohio.
With experts expecting at least $1 billion in damage, the people who will have to clean it up aren’t waiting.
Along the East Coast, utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with likely power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared.
“It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. “Mother Nature is not saying ‘trick-or-treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname Frankenstorm, said: “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”
Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance – up from 60 percent two days earlier – that the East will get pounded starting Sunday and stretching past Halloween on Wednesday.
Things are expected to get messier once Sandy, a very late hurricane in what has been a remarkably quiet season, comes ashore, probably in New Jersey.
Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, but the storm is expected to vent the worst of its fury on New Jersey and the New York City area, which could see around 5 inches of rain and gale-force winds close to 40 mph. Eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania, western Virginia and the Shenandoah Mountains could get snow.
And the storm will take its time leaving. The weather may not start clearing in the mid-Atlantic until the day after Halloween and Nov. 2 in the upper Northeast, Cisco said.
“It’s almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event,” he said from a NOAA center in College Park, Md. “It’s going to be a widespread, serious storm.”
It is likely to hit during a full moon, when tides are near their highest, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. And because many trees still have their leaves, they are more likely to topple in the event of wind and snow, meaning there could be widespread power outages lasting to Election Day.
Eastern states that saw blackouts that lasted for days after last year’s freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 are already pressuring power companies to be more prepared this time.
Asked if he expected utility companies to be more prepared, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick responded: “They’d better be.”
The monster storm, local forecasters said, may bring lots of rain to our region toward the end of next week.
“Starting this weekend, through most of next week, it will be cool and wet,” said National Weather Service meteorologist John Hitchcock.
About 4 to 6 inches of rain are expected in Western New York over a five-day period between Saturday and Thursday.
However, absent from the mix will be the widespread damaging winds associated with hurricanes.