Sun, Surf, Snow, and Tornadoes: Top NJ Weather Events of 2017
WPG Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow looks back at the Garden State's most prominent weather headlines and headaches of the year.
#6: A Dry, Mild September-October
Yes, even boring weather makes this list! We began autumn with an extended stretch of above-normal temperatures and mostly dry weather from mid-September through early October. So dry, in fact, we almost ended up into drought if not for the 3-plus inches of rain that fell on October 29. That was the wettest day of the year, practically deserving of its own spot on this countdown.
#5: February Record Warmth
74 at Newark, 75 at Trenton, 71 at Atlantic City. The makings of a typical, pleasant late May day in New Jersey. Would you believe those were our high temperatures on February 24? Quite unusual! We spent about 2 weeks consistently above normal from late February through the first two days of March. Records were smashed, and the groundhog's "six more months of winter" prediction was proven wrong yet again.
#4: Mid-March Mess
There were a few snowstorms to choose from for this top five list, but I believe last winter's only double-digit snowfall takes the cake. One of the most difficult forecasts of my career, this nor'easter dumped over 17 inches of snow in North Jersey, over 3 inches of rain in South Jersey, alongside significant icing in several locations. Wind gusts topped 60 mph, causing scattered power outages. What a mess.
#3: An Early Taste of Winter
November turned cold. December turned snowy, with three accumulating snow events in just 6 days. And then we closed the year with another extended stretch of bitter cold. Is this early season snow a sign of what's to come for the rest of this winter? We'll see.
#2: Tropical Surf and Swell
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was an extremely active one, from Harvey's floods in east Texas, Maria's hard hit on Puerto Rico. The Northeast U.S. saw several near-misses from tropical cyclones this summer, especially from Jose and Irma (one of the strongest hurricanes on record in the Atlantic). While our tropical weather impacts were minimal, beaches from Long Island to the Jersey Shore were battered by rough surf and rip currents for several weeks. That made for a lackluster (and deadly) end to the summer beach and boardwalk season.
#1: Solar Eclipse Mania
August 21, 2017 was a date amateur astronomers won't soon forget — The Great American Eclipse. OK, technically it's not weather. And New Jersey did not even fall in the path of totality. But you'll remember stores selling out of eclipse glasses, as New Jerseyans panicked about their retinas or cell phones melting from this rare celestial event. Meteorologically, thermometers fell several degrees during the peak of the eclipse. If you missed it, the next partial solar eclipse visible here will occur in October 2023.
Honorable Mention: The Howell Tornado
One of New Jersey's most violent weather events of 2017 happened early one Saturday morning in late June, as we woke up to incredibly powerful thunderstorms rolling through the state. A microburst caused damage in Browns Mills, Burlington County and two EF-0 tornados were confirmed in Howell Township, Monmouth County. While I was tempted to include late June's severe weather event in the main countdown, I ultimately felt it was too geographically isolated. But it certainly made for one of the most dramatic videos ever taken of a Home Depot parking lot.
So there you go, 2017 was a big year in weather — and I'm sure 2018 will deliver more of the same. Happy New Year!