Blizzard Warning for NJ Coast: Snow and Wind Forecast Going Up
What's the latest forecast?
There is now little doubt that we've got a legitimate winter storm on our hands. All model guidance now points to a powerful nor'easter flying close enough to our coastline to bury the Jersey Shore in snow. Plus wind. Plus coastal flooding. Plus extreme cold.
As of Friday morning, our storm total snowfall forecast has gone up by approximately one category. That brings the "sweet spot" along the Jersey Shore into the 12 to 18+ inch range. (The "plus" reflects that some spots could hit two feet of snow, depending on the position, timing, and strength of heavier snow bands.)
Furthermore, the wind speed forecast has increased a bit. We face about 6 to 9 hours Saturday morning with widespread 40+ mph wind gusts across New Jersey. That presents the risk for serious drifting snow, in addition to visibility issues.
And let's not forget about the extreme cold temperatures, too. Thermometers will do no better than lower 20s during the day Saturday. Wind chills during the day will only be in the single digits. And late Saturday could dip into "dangerous cold" territory, between 0 and -10 degrees.
So needless to say, we've got some seriously "wintry" weather coming up this weekend. Hopefully you're able to hunker down and ride out the storm. If not, I hope the rest of this article will help you plan for the worst-case scenario where you live.
What is a Blizzard Warning?
The technical definition of a "blizzard" actually has nothing to do with snowfall. It's a matter of wind, visibility, and time. Blizzard conditions require 35 mph winds, reducing visibility below a quarter-mile (due to falling or blowing snow), for at least three hours.
It's a big deal to call a storm a true "blizzard." Given the latest forecast, it is clear we'll at least come close to those criteria early Saturday morning along the Jersey Shore.
A Blizzard Warning has been issued for Monmouth, Ocean, southeastern Burlington, Atlantic, and Cape May counties from 7 p.m. Friday through 7 p.m. Saturday. Heavy snow and strong winds will reduce visibility to near-zero for an extended period of time. Travel will be difficult, if not possible.
Most of the remainder of New Jersey falls under a Winter Storm Warning for the same time period, 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday. That warning covers Bergen, northwestern Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, and Union counties. Warnings are usually issued for the possibility of 6+ inch snowfall.
Sussex and Warren counties will miss out on the heaviest snow bands. But there still could be minor snow accumulations and travel issues. A Winter Weather Advisory is posted for 7 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday.
When will the weather get bad?
During the Friday daytime hours, you may see some pockets of light to moderate snow passing through New Jersey. This is not directly related to our impending coastal storm, and not part of the "main event" arriving Friday night. It's an approaching arctic cold front. And because the ground is so cold, there could be some slippery spots and a coating of accumulation on the ground by the end of the afternoon.
After about 6 or 7 p.m. Friday evening, snow activity will pick up in South Jersey as our nor'easter travels up the coast. By Friday late evening, around 10 to 11 p.m., we should see snow falling across most of New Jersey.
Then we enter the brunt of the storm Saturday morning, with the heaviest snowfall, fastest accumulation, and poorest travel conditions. Peak storm conditions are literally expected between about Midnight and Noon.
The windiest weather will be during the second half of that "brunt" time frame. Top gusts are expected to blow between about sunrise and midday Saturday.
I expect dry air to invade the atmosphere Saturday afternoon, putting a gradual west-to-east end to the snow between about 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Note: Some models linger snow into Saturday evening, but I think the dry air is going to win out a few hours early.)
And finally, the extreme cold will really settle in as the storm wraps up. The wind chill may fall as low as -10 degrees Saturday night to Sunday morning. Anything below zero is "dangerous cold" here in New Jersey, with an increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
Sunday will be sunny, dry, and cold. As you shovel out, temperatures will be stuck below freezing for yet another day.
How bad will it get?
—12 to 18+ inches of total snow accumulation along the coastal plain, from about Long Branch to Ocean City, and as far inland as Jackson Township.
—8 to 12 inches along and just southeast of the NJ Turnpike corridor, including Bayonne, New Brunswick, Freehold, Mt Laurel, Hammonton, and Vineland.
—4 to 8 inches just northwest of the Turnpike, including Newark, the Plainfields, Hillborough, Princeton, Trenton, Camden, and Salem.
—1 to 4 inches for northwestern New Jersey, including New Milford, Sussex, Hackettstown, and Flemington.
—50 mph wind gusts are possible for coastal communities, which will severely restrict visibility during snowfall and may cause sporadic power outages.
—40 mph wind gusts are expected throughout the rest of the state. Although blustery and perilous.
—Minor coastal flooding may occur along tidal waterways during Saturday morning's high tide cycle, with an extra foot or two of water. (We will be spared from anything more serious than that due to the timing and orientation of the strongest winds.)
—Saturday daytime temperatures will reach no higher than the lower 20s. The wind chill during the day will be stuck in the single digits.
—Saturday night temperatures will dip into the single digits across most of the state. The wind chill will end up in the "danger zone," below zero.
Is there still a chance the storm swings out to sea?
Yes, it's still a lingering thought in the back of my mind.
An eastward wiggle of the storm track of just 25 miles would cause snowfall to underperform my forecast by one category. 50 miles and it would be two full categories lower. (So just 8 inches instead of 18+ inches.)
For the record, there's an equal chance of overperformance. The latest NAM model shows a perilous scenario, where the coastal storm stalls for a few hours just off the Jersey Shore around mid-morning Saturday. The longer it's in the neighborhood, the higher the snow totals and the bigger the impact.
Bottom line: I wouldn't put forth such a dramatic, snowy forecast if I didn't truly believe it was realistic and likely to play out. The time for hemming and hawing and punting to the next model run is over. All evidence is now clearly pointing to a significant winter storm for most of New Jersey.
We'll take one more hard look at the nor'easter forecast Friday afternoon, tweaking the timeline and totals as needed. (I'm hopeful we won't have to change much.) Those adjustments will be reflected in our on-air forecasts starting this afternoon, with one more weather blog to be published around 5 p.m.
Our news, weather, traffic, digital, and programming teams are now on full "Winter Weather Alert". You can count on us to deliver the latest relevant info before, during, and after the storm.