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Hard rain due Thursday; Flood Watch posted

Today looks fine, with sunshine and highs near 50 degrees. And the weekend looks great, with more sunshine and highs in the 50s beginning on Friday. But in between, like the great Greenwich Village forecaster Bob Dylan said, it's a hard rain a-gonna fall - as much as 3 inches in some locations.

The National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. has posted a Flood Watch from Washington County in the west to Cecil County in the east, and reaching as far south as Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

In effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday evening, the Watch for the Baltimore region predicts as much as 3 inches of rain could fall in some locations as a slow-moving cold front approaches the region, and takes its sweet time moving off to the east.

The storm is already gathering strength in the Central Plains states, and is threatening the lower Mississippi Valley with severe thunderstorms, hail, destructive winds and even tornadoes late today. Even the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans could be overtaken by storms late tonight.

Baltimore's forecast calls for rain chances to pick up after 1 p.m. Wednesday, becoming moderate to heavy after 10 p.m., with up to a half-inch possible before daybreak Thursday. More rain, heavy at times, is in the works for Thursday, with new amounts of 1 to 2 inches. Thursday night could

add to the total - as much as three-quarters of an inch more - before it ends early on Friday.

NWS: "The forecasted rainfall amounts likely will cause flooding of low-lying areas, as well as cause small streams and creeks to rise out of their banks. The runoff would then create significant rises on area rivers."

The flood risk is made more likely by the heavy rain that fell Sunday, and which is still making its way down the state's rivers and streams. Saturated soils will not be able to absorb as much of the next storm as they managed to soak up over the weekend.

Cold air sweeping down from the north around the backside of the departing low on Thursday night could set off some snow in the higher mountain elevations. Here in the lowlands, we can expect mostly sunny skies behind the storm, with seasonable highs in the 50s for the weekend. 

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