Here we ‘snow’, NJ: 9 things to know about Thursday night’s storm
UPDATE... This article is outdated...
For the latest winter storm forecast information, please refer to my newest weather blog post.
1.) The Bottom Line
Thursday daytime will be quiet, dry, and chilly. Then widespread snow will arrive in New Jersey from late Thursday night into Friday morning. It's a coastal storm. A winter storm. A snow-maker. But absolutely not a blockbuster, historic, "bread and milk" kind of storm.
While snow accumulations across the state will range from light to moderate, Friday morning's commute looks incredibly wintry and challenging.
2.) Our next winter storm will peak overnight.
First flakes will drive into New Jersey between 10 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday.
Storm intensity will peak with steady snowfall between about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday. One or two bands of heavier convective snow will be possible in this overnight time window too.
Snow should wane by mid-morning Friday, with final flakes between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
3.) It's going to produce (almost) all snow across NJ.
The center of this coastal storm system will drift just south of New Jersey. That puts us clearly on the cold side of the storm. (You'll notice the refreshed chill in the air during the day Thursday.)
That means for the vast majority of New Jersey, every thing that falls from the sky during this winter storm will be straight snow. No mixing. No icy sleet. No slushy rain. Just snowflakes.
Well, actually, that's not entirely true. There is still a chance that the relatively warmer (40s) ocean and the warmer core of the storm system will affect communities along the immediate coast. Some mixing with sleet and/or rain may come into play east of the Parkway through Cape May, Atlantic, and Ocean counties. However, I'm now leaning toward a snowy forecast along the coast too. (More on that later.)
4.) Snow accumulations will be "moderate".
I think there's pretty good consensus pointing toward an average snow accumulation of "3 or 4 inches". Applying a (dry, cold) snow ratio of 14:1 on the entire suite of model precipitation forecasts, my math showed potential snowfall between about 1.5 inches and 8 inches across the state. A wide range, but I think there's pretty good consensus toward that "3 or 4 inches" number.
As you see on the map above, I decided to keep it simple and just split the state in half. 2 to 4 inches to the north. 4 to 6 inches to the south. Not quite heavy or debilitating. But nothing to sneeze at either.
You'll also notice I have included a "plus" on my forecast for southern New Jersey, with a concern for some overperformance. If a heavier, convective snow band sets up, it could dump 1-2 inches of snow an hour, for an hour or two. Leading to those higher accumulations of 6" or even 8". But only in isolated spots, not everywhere. (FYI, I'm more concerned about overperformance than this storm turning into a total bust.)
5.) The biggest impact will be Friday morning's commute.
The combination of the early morning timing and those moderate snow totals really have me concerned for the Friday morning rush hour. Peak snowfall will just be wrapping up, leading to visibility issues and icy roads. Traffic volume will increase just as plow crews are trying to get ahead of the storm. Not a good situation.
You might want to set your alarm a little earlier for Friday morning. (Or don't hit the "snooze" button quite so many times.) That way, you can stay ahead of changing weather and road conditions.
If the forecast plays out as expected, there will be numerous school delays and closings too. (Probably a last-minute call by each individual district.)
6.) What is a Winter Weather Advisory?
All parts of all 21 counties in New Jersey now fall under a Winter Weather Advisory, in effect from late Thursday evening through late Friday morning. (The northeast corner of the state and the immediate coast were late adds to the advisory, but are now covered.)
This is a classic "advisory-level" storm, all about treacherous travel. I think you'll agree that "3 or 4 inches of snow" on New Jersey's congested roads can become quite challenging? Low visibility, slippery roads, drivers going way too fast, drivers going way too slow. Not fun.
7.) Tricky Spot #1: Will NW NJ be too dry for substantial snow?
North Jersey's snow killer during Monday's big "South Jersey special" storm was dry air. Trust me — the wound of busting part of that forecast is still very fresh.
Our impending storm system is admittedly not going to draw in a ton of moisture. But I'm hoping it will be enough this time around for some snow to fall and stick statewide. (I've admittedly opted for a pretty aggressive forecast to the northwest.)
I'm going to give it one more model run Thursday afternoon, to see if I need to decrease totals in NW NJ again.
8.) Tricky Spot #2: Will the immediate coast mix or pour?
The biggest difference in opinion among forecasters for this storm is whether the immediate coast sees 1.) more wintry mix than snow, or 2.) a period of very heavy snow.
Wow, two polar opposites in terms of impacts and ultimate snow totals. But it's all about whether temperatures end up just above or just below that magical 32-degree point on the thermometer.
In my previous forecasts, I had kept coastal Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties under slightly lower snow accumulations than the rest of southern NJ. (The National Weather Service is still largely following that line of thinking, although they finally added the coast to their advisory.)
It's going to be close. But I'm really leaning toward the latter, snowier solution at this point. Again, it is something to ponder as the day goes on, possibly adjusting snowfall expectations (in either direction) one more time at the last minute.
9.) Our app is a great winter storm resource.
I don't just say that because I'm an employee of Townsquare Media. I truly believe our mobile app is the best way to stay informed with the latest forecast, storm news, and traffic impacts. Turning on and customizing the "Alerts" function is key. A real person sends out every single one of our instant notifications, as news breaks. Nothing automated, no spam, no junk — it is fully curated to push only the most important, relevant, and/or interesting information.
Depending on how the storm continues to evolve, I may or may not publish a "final" weather blog Thursday afternoon. (Keep an eye on app alerts and/or social media for the latest.)
As the brunt of this snow storm arrives overnight, I'll pop on the radio with the latest play-by-play until the final flakes fly.
Be smart. Stay safe.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.