UPDATE... This article is outdated...

For the latest winter storm forecast information, please refer to my newest weather blog post.


The Watch

On Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for much of central and southern New Jersey. The watch is in effect from:

—10 a.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Tuesday for Cumberland and Salem counties.
—4 p.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Tuesday for inland Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and inland Ocean counties.

A Winter Storm Watch (blue) has been issued for all or part of 10 counties in central and southern NJ.

A watch is usually issued 48 hours before a significant storm, and serves as a formal heads-up to prepare for winter weather. When the storm draws closer (within 12 to 24 hours), the watch area may be upgraded to a warning.

Analysis

I strongly suspected that NWS would have to put out a watch this afternoon. And I think their geography is pretty good, based on how the vast majority of forecast models are trending.

What they've done is specifically color-in the area in which 6+ inch snowfall is most likely. (Technically the watch text says 7+ inches, plus "significant blowing and drifting of snow" due to 50 mph wind gusts.)

I might have pushed the watch one tier of counties higher — Somerset and Hunterdon — just in case the storm track wiggles back to the north. Union, Essex, and Hudson are borderline watch-worthy too, and covered by a different National Weather Service office with potentially different thinking and guidelines. And the omission of all of Cape May County is gutsy, as at least some snow accumulation is likely there. Of course, they can always add those zones to subsequent watches/warnings/advisories if the forecast justifies it.

What's Next?

I am still not issuing a specific snow accumulation forecast at this time.

Even though the watch's depiction of the most likely 6+ inch snow bullseye looks reasonable, there's still a huge question lingering here: What number do we put at the top end of that snowfall range?

Is it going to be a consistent 6-inch snow? (Doubtful.) Or could heavier snow bands dump a substantial pocket of "double-digit" snowfall totals somewhere? (Absolutely on the table here.) And how far inland will warmer marine air penetrate, causing a flip to rain Monday morning? (It's going to happen.)

GFS model depiction as the brunt of the storm begins Monday morning. Note the heavy snow (dark blue) band covering central and southern NJ. (College of DuPage Meteorology)

Miller type B nor'easter storms are just so track-dependent. Unsurprisingly, they have been the source of some of our biggest "snowstorm busts" in recent years.

That's exactly why I have resisted the outcry and temptation to draw a snow map for this storm thus far. I realize my vague storm descriptions are only somewhat helpful in planning and preparing for what will likely be a significant storm. But once I put concrete numbers out there, it's impossible to take them back. And when big snow is involved, we have to be sure.

Early Saturday morning, I plan to collect my notes and thoughts and lay out exactly how this Sunday-Monday-Tuesday storm is going to play out. Of course, that will include the entire state, with shovelable snow still possibly reaching into North Jersey too. And we'll examine the effects of the gusty northeasterly winds, including the significant coastal flooding threat.

Until then, have a great Friday evening and enjoy your weekend.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.

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