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Hurricane Willa to become Nor'easter, hit East Coast this weekend

CBS News logo CBS News 10/23/2018 Jeff Berardelli
a man wearing a suit and tie © Credit: CBSNews

As Hurricane Willa moves onshore as a major hurricane today in Mexico, its next move is already planned. The storm is on track to become the East Coast's first major Nor'easter of the season, bringing damaging winds, pounding surf and even some heavy, wet inland snow this weekend.

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Currently located more than 2,000 miles away from New York City, Willa is making landfall today on the Pacific coast of Mexico, just south of the resort town of Mazatlan. Willa briefly hit Category 5 strength on Monday, becoming the third Category 5 storm of the Eastern Pacific season, which is now the most energetic on record.

Willa is carrying supercharged Pacific energy and even moisture from another tropical system, Vincente, as it slams ashore in Mexico. While the storm is forecast to lose strength as it crosses the mountains of Mexico, it will retain its identity as it moves towards Texas. And that is where the transition from tropical storm system to Nor'easter will begin. There will be some big impacts along the way.

In Texas, up to several inches of rain will fall on already saturated ground. Having endured major flooding in the Hill Country less than a week ago, Texans are preparing for round two Wednesday. This time the rain will not be nearly as heavy and it won't last as long. But flash flooding is a threat in localized downpours. 

And that's just the beginning as the storm moves into the deep South.

On Thursday, strong thunderstorms will pound some of the same areas ravaged by Hurricane Michael. Torrential downpours and isolated tornadoes are possible from Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama, northern Florida and Georgia. The largest threat for tornadoes will be the Florida Panhandle and South Georgia.

Then the system re-energizes. The remnants of Willa will merge with a cold front, round the corner and then hug the Eastern Seaboard, becoming a significant Nor'easter for all of the East Coast as we head into the weekend.

The storm will start to crank on Friday, bringing stormy weather to the Southeast U.S.  Expect a cool and blustery rain for North and South Carolinas and Virginia. Westward across the Appalachians into Kentucky and Tennessee, a chilly wind will blow with heavy rain and temperatures staying in the 40s. 

That raw weather will barrel up the Eastern Seaboard and make for a miserable Saturday in the Northeast. At this point the storm will be a full-fledged Nor'easter, and a very strong one for this early in the season. Gusts of 50-70 mph and ocean waves up to 20 feet will lash coastal areas from Virginia to New England. Coastal flooding is possible in normally vulnerable areas.  

From Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, it will be a blustery, cold day with heavy, sideways rain and temperatures hovering in the 40s.

It's still early in the fall so most trees are still full of leaves. That's why the first Nor'easters of the season are notorious for falling trees and power lines.

Far inland temperatures may be just cold enough for the first measurable snow of the season. A few wet flakes will likely fall as far south as the Poconos and Northern New Jersey. 

The snow will be heavier farther north, from the Catskills into the mountains of Northern New England. Some areas in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine could pick up a foot. The cement-like snow will weigh down power lines and, combined with gusty winds, may cause scattered power outages. 

The weather will begin to improve Sunday as the Nor'easter moves away, but it will leave behind very cold and windy autumn weather for the start of Halloween week. Bundle up, trick-or-treaters! 

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