Persistent moderate to heavy rain is expected Thursday, which may lead to flooding and travel problems.
Umbrellas and windshield wipers across the Garden State will get quite a workout today, as we see a day of soaking rain. Here's a full breakdown of this soggy forecast for today and beyond...
The Setup... A front is currently draped across much of the country, from Maine to Texas. As that front continues to move through New Jersey today, impulses will ride along it from southwest to northeast. Those disturbances will provide us with a continuing chance for rain, pretty much all day.
We Really Need It...It warms my heart to see how many people are commenting on my Facebook forecasts how badly we need the rain... You're right! We have been in a rainfall deficit since mid-July, and every dry day since has dug us deeper into drought. A good chunk of North Jersey has already earned "Moderate Drought" status, as year-to-date rainfall totals have fallen to about 5 inches below normal. A couple inches of good soaking rain today will go a long way in greening up lawns and filling up reservoirs across the state.
Timeline...The rain event has already begun... Isolated thunderstorms rolled through parts of New Jersey Wednesday afternoon. And we have already seen several batches of rain move through the state overnight. (I unfortunately got drenched by a downpour as I walked into the radio station early this morning.) Models are showing scattered areas of moderate to heavy rain continuing for much of Thursday. While there may be some breaks in the rainfall action, skies will remain cloudy and the day overall will be quite wet for much (if not all) of New Jersey. It's not a sure thing, but the heaviest and steadiest rain currently looks to fall in the late afternoon and early evening hours... unfortunately just in time for your commute home. The rain looks to continue through at least part of the overnight as well.
Totals...All week, we have been promoting widespread rainfall totals in the 1 to 2 inch range, and that still looks to be the case today. Locally higher amounts will be possible from the heaviest downpours - we could conceivably see 3"... 4"... or more, if a heavy storm sits over one area for a long time. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly where this heaviest rainfall will set up. But confidence is decent that the biggest downpours will happen along and north/west of the NJ Turnpike. It is still going to rain today along the Jersey Shore and in South Jersey, but the chance for heavy deluges will be a bit lower.
Flooding Threat...With heavy rain comes flooding. But one thing will reduce the flash flooding threat today: New Jersey's ground is very thirsty. The aforementioned rainfall deficit has left the ground parched, which means it will soak up a lot of rain before flooding begins. We call this the "antecedent soil condition". Don't let your guard down though... one the ground becomes saturated, flooding of roads, low-lying areas, and places with poor drainage may happen quickly. Never attempt to walk, drive, or swim through flooded areas. That water is disgusting and dangerous. Turn around, don't drown!
Severe Weather Risk...Despite the chance of heavy rain and flooding, the threat for severe weather (wind, hail, tornadoes) will be low today. Our atmosphere will not have the instability and wind shear needed to produce widespread severe storms. However, once again, it can't be ruled out altogether. If we get a break in the rainfall action today, temperatures may spike into the 80s. The warmer it gets today, the more unstable our atmosphere becomes. And the higher our chances of seeing a strong storm with the potential for gusty winds and hail. Bottom line regarding severe weather... I wouldn't be surprised if the National Weather Service issues a couple warnings today, but the overall threat for bigtime damaging winds or tornadoes is very low.
Other Impacts... It is important to note that any thunderstorm is potentially dangerous due to lightning. Additionally, periods of heavy rain may significantly reduce visibility today, making driving conditions difficult. Finally, our recent lack of rain has led to a buildup of "crud" - oils, dirt, leaves, etc. - on the road. That could serve to reduce traction even more than usual, especially on curves, on-ramps, and jughandles. All of these serve as additional reasons to be extra-careful and extra-vigilent throughout today's rain and storms.
The End Game... Models are showing the chance for heavy rain will decrease significantly late this evening, after about 10 p.m. Showers could linger through early Friday morning, especially along the coast. As the rain ends Friday morning, skies will clear slowly through Friday afternoon. A brisk wind will accompany seasonable high temperatures around 80°.
Beyond the Rain... Rain begets more rain... Another storm system is expected to bring even more wet weather to New Jersey, and unfortunately it looks to happen this weekend. By late afternoon Saturday, a storm system will lift northward into New Jersey, and so we have to add showers and thunderstorms to the forecast through Saturday night and much of the day Sunday. Some of that rain could be steady or heavy at times, especially in overnight hours between Saturday and Sunday. This weekend won't be a washout, but it might be close. We'll have more resolution on that timing once our current rain event is over. One thing is sure - we are done with 90+ degree temperatures for a while!
Please be safe and be smart during today's potentially dangerous weather. Keep an ear to your radio and an eye to the web this afternoon for the latest updates on this ever-developing wet weather day.
Dan Zarrow is the Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow his forecasts and weather updates on Facebook and Twitter.