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The long-advertised change to a cold and snowy wintry pattern for the eastern half of the country is finally poised to arrive this weekend. Inaugurating the change will be a significant cross-country winter storm expected to impact a corridor from northern California to the Northeast. But before this storm takes shape, a weaker system will clear a path for it across the Midwest and Northeast between Thursday and Friday. The path and intensity of this weaker system will ultimately decide the fate of the potentially more significant weekend storm. The behavior of the jet stream will set the storm path and intensity. Split into a northern and southern branch, each branch will contribute in some way to the weekend storm. The northern branch will supply the cold while the southern branch will supply the initial disturbance. The disturbance will develop from enhanced energy from the Pacific decelerating over California’s Sierra-Nevada…