Atmosphere ready to rumble?

This afternoon the atmosphere is about as quiet as a government office on a federal holiday.

Evidently that's about to change, with perhaps hailstones tonight and an old-fashioned nor'easter later in the week with gale-force winds, pounding rains and even wet snowflakes nearby.

The government's Storm Prediction Center (which is open today), has issued a severe-thunderstorm watch for all but extreme South Jersey, in effect until 10 p.m.

With the air quite unstable, as a front drapes across the region tonight, showers and possibly a hail-producing thunderstorm are likely to pop up between 8 p.m. and the early-morning hours. Then, the front sags to the our south and mutates into a storm highway. After a gentle midweek period, a full-blown nor'easter could affect the entire Northeast Thursday into Friday night.

Nor'easters take their names from the powerful winds from the northeast that punish areas to the northwest of their centers; winds circulate counterclockwise around those centers.

In its daily discussion, the National Weather Service noted that the computers models now are in accord that something is going to blow near the Carolina coast late in the week. Accu-Weather is saying the storm could generate wind gusts of 50 m.p.h., a couple of inches of rain, and even snowflake sightings in the higher elevations.

'Tis the season.