Heavy Rain in East, April Snowflakes for Some

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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.

The storm is atypical for April but not uncommon, said David Stark, a National Weather Service meteorologist in New York City, where 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches of rain are expected in the city with wind gusts of 25-30 mph. 

Some higher-elevation areas in the 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.

Flooding was possible in some areas, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said at an Earth Day event at Grand Central. He added the system has had "ample opportunity" to prepare for the storm.  From the Long Island Railroad through the Metro-North corridor, Lhota said the system has been running operations centers with eye towards addressing problems before they start.

"We've been able to clean all the drainage systems, cut down some of the trees that are too close to some of the electrical lines that help run Metro-North," Lhota said.

Lhota admitted he is concerned about the Monday morning commute, but added he's confident the right resources are in place to deal with whatever happens.  Commuters were urged to check the MTA website before heading out the door, to get the latest information on mass transit, along with any advisories for the bridges and tunnels.

Despite possible problems with the commute, the rain is welcome. Precipitation in much of the Northeast is running below normal for this time of year.

"We're down 7 or 8 inches," National 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.

Brigid Bergin contributed reporting.