Storm: Chilling prospect

Anyone who remembers the winter of '93-'94 can affirm that snow beats ice any day or night or time of the week.

In that season, a sequence of ice storms turned many of us into so many bears on skates and depleted almost everyone's salt supplies.

In fact, as a result of that winter, road crews have erred on the side of surpluses, and that may have something to do with why it is spread so liberally these days, and the air over parking lots sometimes can taste like a salt mine.

We mention that winter because the latest forecasts are disturbing. It still appears that snow will creep across the region late tonight or during the early morning hours and continue after daybreak.

Accumulations won't be all that worrisome, on the order of 1 to 3 inches. What is worrisome is the prospect of prolonged freezing rain Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

It's possible that Philadelphia could get enamled with 0.2 inches of glaze before a changeover to plain rain later in the day, says Greg Heavener at the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly.

That would stress tree branches, some of which already are weighted with snow, and power lines.

All this is something you'll want to keep an eye on, because the forecast is going to be a moving target, and Philadelphia evidently is going to be real close to the freeze line for at least part of the day Wednesday.

During the weekend, Walt Drag, Heavener's colleague, noted that plenty of cold air remains to our north, and it wouldn't take too much for the storm to mine more of that chill than anticipated.

One positive development: One of the later model runs is showing more sleet for Philadelphia, which would be a relative "godsend," said Heavener.

Why? Unlike freezing rain, sleet bounces off branches and power lines, and it's much slower to accumulate than snow.

Another plus is that widespread flooding is unlikely, although the storm could leave hefty precipitation amounts.

Temperatures may flirt with 40 in and around Philadelphia on Wednesday as the plain rain is falling.

However, the snow pack should be dense enough to hold the rain, and the melting conditions won't be optimal.

The storm could end with snow showers, as it gets colder. But it also will be windy, and that should help dry up the streets before the next hard freeze sets in.