It's becoming clear that a coastal storm system will bring a variety of wintry weather conditions to the Garden State from Saturday evening to Monday morning.

Short-Term Forecast

I know you want to hear all about the forecast for this weekend's coastal storm system (nor'easter) - scroll down a bit for more on that. Meanwhile, our weather for Friday and Saturday will set the stage for a potentially wintry mess on Sunday.

Friday will start with mostly sunny skies, with clouds increasing through the afternoon hours. As a cold front pushes through New Jersey Friday afternoon, a gusty wind will howl at 40+ mph. While the frontal passage looks mostly dry, a few widely scattered showers will be possible once again. The best chance for those showers will be north of Interstate 195. High temperatures should reach the upper 50s to lower 60s, although it will be hard to enjoy the mild air due to the blustery conditions.

Saturday morning looks like New Jersey's first freeze in several days, so early gardeners might want to cover or bring in plants, if possible. Temperatures are expected to fall to the 26 to 36 degree range statewide.

Despite sunshine, Saturday's high temperature will be limited to the mid 40s - that's quite a chill! Clouds will start to increase as the day presses on, and skies should remain dry through most of the daytime hours. However, our weather will steadily go downhill starting as early as the Saturday late afternoon to evening hours.

Coastal Storm: One More Taste of Winter

In Thursday's weather blog post, I addressed the countless question marks surrounding the forecast for a coastal storm directly impacting New Jersey this weekend. All week long, our weather forecast models have been incredibly helter-skelter with the forecast for the track, temperatures, and anticipated weather impacts from this storm. While we don't have all the answers yet, and are not ready to publish a snow accumulation forecast map at this time, we can now start to piece together how this system will play out.

Timing

Friday morning's suite of forecast models puts the first snowflakes/raindrops pushing into far South Jersey between 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. The precipitation then looks to spread northward, affecting everyone in the state by between 2 a.m. and Noon Sunday.

There is considerable uncertainty regarding the peak of the system. At this time, it is only safe to say the heaviest precipitation will occur sometime Sunday.

The bulk of this storm system looks to exit the Garden State by Monday morning's rush hour. However, snow showers will remain possible through Monday evening.

I realize, of course, that these are very wide windows of time. As more model runs and more data become available, we'll hopefully be able to shrink and further define these windows for each region of the state.

Weather Impacts

Rain and snow will be the primary precipitation types from this system, and we'll likely have both going on at the same time across New Jersey. Some sleet is possible as well, mostly as we transition between rain and snow as temperatures rise and fall.

The rain vs. snow line is going to be incredibly important to our ultimate forecast, and will make all the difference between wet and icy travel conditions. Unfortunately, that rain vs. snow line is also incredibly difficult to accurately forecast in advance of the storm. It does seem clear that the closer to the Atlantic Ocean you are, the more rain and therefore less snow you're likely to receive.

Coastal Impacts

Any nor'easter is apt to cause significant impacts along the Jersey Shore, including tidal flooding and beach erosion. This storm will be no different, as a persistent northeasterly wind from Saturday night through Sunday will push ocean water against the coastline.

According to the latest surge and wave models, it looks like we'll be spared from anything catastrophic. Coastal flooding is expected to reach the "minor flooding" category during the two high tide cycles on Sunday. Ocean waves are forecast to reach the 8 to 10 foot range, potentially leading to moderate erosion.

Snow Accumulations

The hardest question of them all.

I'm happy to say the "contrarian" European model has completely backed off its previous insistence of double-digit snowfall totals in NJ, to fall closely in line (in magnitude, at least) with the GFS. The NAM currently has the lowest snow totals of all the morning models, while the previously marginal Canadian model is now showing a wide swath of up to 17". But given the current forecast track, I think we can throw those extreme double-digit totals out the window at this point.

Three big questions remain that will significantly impact how much snow accumulates:
--Where will the rain-snow line and air temperatures hover throughout the snow?
--Will the ground be too warm for snow to accumulate?
--And will the storm track "wiggle" in any direction, which would potentially shifting the band of heaviest snow?

We will probably issue a snow accumulation forecast map by Friday evening, so stay tuned for that. If you held a gun to my head and made me give a snow forecast, I'd be tempted to put a "4 to 6 inches" contour somewhere in inland New Jersey. Snow amounts will probably end up significantly less along the Jersey Shore, which will be under the influence of the warm waters of the Atlantic. (Ocean temperatures are now up to 50 degrees in spots.)

Other than that, I am not prepared to be more geographically specific. Again, stay tuned.

Action Steps

If it snows long and hard enough, snow and ice may eventually accumulate on roadways, making travel potentially hazardous. That risk will extend from Sunday into Monday morning, which could make for a difficult commute. In fact, depending on the exact timing and accumulations, some schools and business may need to close or delay on Monday morning.

Minor coastal flooding may also necessitate road closures on Sunday. Hopefully any problems will be limited to "the usual" roads, that tend to flood during most big storms.

Is this a "bread and milk" storm? Eh, I don't think so.

Confidence

I'll put my current forecast confidence in the low-to-medium range. I certainly feel more comfortable about this forecast than on Thursday morning. But there is still a lot of uncertainty over the exact track, temperatures, and potential snow accumulations.

I'm hopeful we will be able to continue adding finer details over the next 24 to 36 hours before the storm arrives. I don't like not being able to put together a snow forecast map with the storm potentially moving in tomorrow. But I hate even more the pressure to "over-forecast" a winter storm, publicizing snow totals that are subject to change wildly as the storm approaches.

I promise, when we know more, you'll know more.

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