Blizzard of 2016 Recap: NJ Gets a Full Season of Snow in One Shot
Snowfall totals topped a foot for all but one county in New Jersey, as a real worst-case scenario played out this weekend.
It will still take a few days to compute final statistics for what will be known as "The Blizzard of 2016"... But it's already pretty clear this storm was indeed historic.
I have compiled preliminary snowfall data for New Jersey, but I publish this list with a giant asterisk. Measuring snow is tricky, and there is actually a 14-page handbook published by the National Weather Service describing how to do it properly.
Remember, please take this data with a grain of salt for now. The biggest issue with snow observation is not taking the "average depth" of new snowfall, and (accidentally, or otherwise) measuring a drift instead. Other problems include measuring too frequently or not frequently enough (compaction of heavy snow heavily impacts the depth) and estimating. Experts at the National Centers for Environmental Information and the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist will pore over the hundreds of New Jersey snow reports from this weekend and make determinations over which are valid and which are suspect. Once they issue a report within the next week or two, we will pass it along.
The top snow amounts occurred in Morris, Hunterdon, and Essex counties: a direct result of a band of very heavy snow that got "stuck" over north-central New Jersey on Saturday afternoon. That unconfirmed report of 33 inches in Morris Plains seems awfully high to me, as other observations in the area are close to (but not over) the 30-inch mark.
15 of New Jersey's 21 counties received at least one report of 20+ inches of snow. And all but one county picked up over 12 inches; the lone exception was Cape May County, which received some sleet and some rain, which either limited and/or washed away some of the snow that fell late Friday into early Saturday.
All week leading up to the storm, we cautioned that the snow told only part of the story, as ferocious winds would cause blizzard, near-whiteout conditions. There was an unconfirmed spotter report of a 66 mph gust at Bayville, Ocean County early Saturday morning. The top gusts from the New Jersey Weather and Climate Network occurred along the shore, including:
--Harvey Cedars, Ocean County: 64 mph
--Sea Girt, Monmouth County: 60 mph
--Seaside Heights, Ocean County: 57 mph
--West Cape May, Cape May County: 57 mph
--Woodbine, Cape May County: 54 mph
Even with somewhat lower gusts across inland New Jersey, the combination of wind and snow kept visibilities during much of the storm remained well below a quarter-mile. Additionally, at one point of the storm, reports from utility companies indicated about 1% of New Jersey households had no power.
Snowless Winter? Yeah, Right
Average annual snowfall at Newark Airport is 25.4 inches. Total snowfall from late Friday through early Sunday at Newark Airport added up to 28.1 inches. Yup, much of the state received more than a season's worth of snow in just a day and a half!
At the beginning of winter, I said the season would be potentially volatile and hard to predict due in large part to the strong influence of the El Nino Southern Oscillation in the Pacific Ocean. More relevantly, I also said, "All it really takes is one big snowstorm to make a season memorable."
Ladies and gentlemen, the winter season of 2015-2016 is officially memorable, thanks to the Blizzard of 2016.