How Could Hurricane Dorian Affect New Jersey’s Weather and Surf?
(FYI, please scroll down for the short-term, pre-Dorian and post-Dorian forecast.)
The Latest on Hurricane Dorian
From a meteorological and historical standpoint, Hurricane Dorian is an incredible storm. In terms of wind speed, it tied for the second-strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin (behind only Hurricane Allen, in 1980). Even more amazing is how stagnant this powerful storm has become — it hasn't moved much at all over the last 24 hours. So the tiny islands of the northern Bahamas have been battered again and again.
Dorian is sitting and spinning about 900 miles due south of New Jersey. The storm has weakened and spread out slightly over the past day — maximum sustained winds are down to 120 mph, still a category 3 major hurricane.
The hurricane is expected to un-stall Tuesday, making a hard right turn to parallel the Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coasts through Wednesday. Even though the center of the storm is not expected to make landfall in those states, it's a very precarious situation. Depending on how close the strongest part of the storm (the eye wall) gets to the coast, rain, wind, and surge impacts could be severe.
Here in New Jersey, I think it's safe to say that a direct landfall appears highly unlikely. The forecast consensus keeps Dorian's center about 250 miles southeast of the Jersey Shore at its closest pass. Cue the sigh of relief — however, that's still a close enough clip to bring us some sky and surf issues.
The least of our worries. Showers may bubble up from the south as early as Thursday morning, with bands of light to moderate rain possible Thursday night into Friday. While it's important to never underestimate the moisture potential of a tropical system, I haven't seen any forecast models pop out over an inch in New Jersey. (If the storm ends up more than 250 miles away, even that would be a stretch.) So I do not expect flash flooding to be a huge problem.
The math here is easy — the closer the center of Dorian's low pressure comes to New Jersey, the higher the potential wind gusts. Northeasterly gusts in the 30 to 40 mph range seem likely from late Thursday night through most of Friday, especially for southern and coastal New Jersey. Some model solutions are pushing out gusts as high as 50 mph. That's tropical storm force — certainly enough to cause minor to moderate damage and power outages. Wind should calm down to "breezy" by the time you wake up Saturday morning.
No matter where Dorian tracks, the Jersey Shore is going to feel its push. The strong low pressure and intense winds are churning up the entire Atlantic Ocean, pushing around a lot of water. Now, we're not going to see ~20 feet of storm surge like the Bahamas. But even an extra foot or two of water could be enough to flood vulnerable low-lying areas along tidal waterways. 3+ feet of surge could lead to at least moderate flooding, drawing road closures and potential property damage. I am most concerned about Friday's high tide cycles, on the oceanfront around 2 a.m. and 2 p.m.
A moderate to high risk of rip currents will exist along NJ beaches through the weekend. Wave heights of 6+ feet are not out of the question for Friday. An unfortunate start to "local summer," as those waves could batter beaches and cause moderate erosion.
The Dorian Bottom Line
Unless the track forecast for Dorian shifts significantly, we're just going to experience a period of dreary, cloudy, windy, occasionally rainy weather. Friday could be a pretty nasty day, especially along the coast. (Coastal flooding is an especially big concern.) But the threat for truly dangerous conditions will be limited. Let's remain cautiously optimistic — Dorian is not looking like another Sandy, Irene, or Floyd for New Jersey.
The Rest of the Forecast
Meanwhile, on this back-to-work Tuesday, we've got a beautiful weather forecast — probably the nicest of the week! The overnight rain and thunderstorms have exited, with areas of fog to start the day. It will be mostly sunny, dry, and pleasantly warm day with most high temperatures peaking into the lower 80s. The Jersey Shore will end up a few degrees cooler in the upper 70s. Humidity levels will be moderate.
Patchy fog may develop Tuesday night, with a few clouds. Low temps should dip into the mid to upper 60s.
Wednesday will start with sunshine, before increasing clouds take over. It's going to be a very warm and sticky day, with thermometers soaring into the mid to upper 80s. In addition, a cold front will sweep a round of scattered showers and thunderstorms through New Jersey from mid-afternoon through the evening hours. Given the heat and humidity, some of those storms could be on the strong side.
Cloudy skies will lead to cool temperatures on Thursday, with highs limited to the lower 70s at best. In addition, showers may bubble up into the Garden State from Dorian's outer bands. Wind and rain will ramp up a bit through Thursday night.
To start, Friday will be miserably dreary and cool, with many thermometers stuck in the 60s all day. As I discussed above, it could be a windy and rainy day, especially along the southern and eastern edges of New Jersey. We'll be watching the potential for rough surf and coastal flooding very carefully too.
As Dorian pushes farther and farther out to sea on Saturday, our weather will improve dramatically. I think it will be a breezy day, but our weather stays dry. High temperatures recover to the mid to upper 70s under mostly-partly sunny skies.
A weak cold front on Sunday looks moisture-starved, so any rain chance will be minimal While Sunday's temps will once again reach the upper 70s, Monday will end up quite a bit cooler in the lower 70s.