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Severity, track of potential nor’easter along Atlantic coast still uncertain

The severity of a nor’easter forecast for next week depends on the storm’s exact track along the East Coast.

A path close to land when the storm arrives Nov. 7-8 may mean cold rain for New York and New Jersey, already struggling with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, while another track that remains farther out in the Atlantic may mean New England takes the brunt.

“I wouldn’t write it off yet,” said Gary Best, a meteorologist with Hometown Forecast Services in Nashua, N.H.

Natural gas prices fell after the latest run of the U.S. Global Forecast System computer model predicted the storm would stay farther from the coast.

“If this is correct, it wouldn’t be a big deal,” Best said by telephone.

A computer model by the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting showed the storm closer to the coast, said Rob Carolan, also with Hometown Forecast Services. A closer track also raises the chance that snow may fall from the Poconos to interior New England.

Natural gas for December delivery fell 14.5 cents, or 3.9 percent, to settle at $3.554 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

November signals the start of the traditional heating season for the large population centers of the northern U.S., when demand peaks for energy to heat homes and businesses.

Current snow cover in the United States is less than half of normal for recent years, said David Salmon, a meteorologist with Weather Derivatives in Belton, Mo. Most of the snow came from Sandy and is in the Appalachians.

Salmon said there is a chance for more snow in the next two weeks across Montana. How much of the country is covered by snow becomes important because it may contribute to lower temperatures as the heating season gets under way.

“Snow cover becomes one of the bigger tails wagging the weather dog as the cool season moves along,” Salmon said.

The potential storm for the Northeast wouldn’t have a fraction of Sandy’s punch, but it “will add insult to injury” in recovering areas, Carolan said.

“If it develops, it will be the first significant nontropical storm of the season,” Carolan said. “Anyone inside a house without power isn’t going to be too happy that it is 40 degrees and raining outside.”

Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to as many as 8.5 million homes and businesses on the East Coast, including about half of New Jersey. About 4.8 million customers remained without power Thursday, from South Carolina to Maine and as far west as Michigan.

The new storm may help keep average temperatures along the East Coast about 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit below normal from Nov. 7-11, said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Md. Colder-than-normal weather spurs energy use and may drive up natural gas and heating oil prices.

Average temperatures in the mid-Atlantic states, including New Jersey, will be about 8 degrees below normal from today until Tuesday and about 5 degrees lower in New York and New England, Rogers said.

The Northeast may then get 3 to 5 degrees warmer from Nov. 12-16, Rogers said.

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