Blizzard on New Jersey’s Doorstep

20170313_snowmap_squarev2By John Cifelli
NJTV News Meteorologist

– One to two feet of snow widespread north and west of Route 1
– Sleet and rain to cut totals south
– Moderate coastal flooding, particularly Atlantic coast inlets/bays
– Winds, heavy snow combine for power outages

Moisture is streaming north along the coastal plain this evening, and showers are already breaking out as far north as Virginia and Maryland. Some scattered snow or rain showers will pop up over southern New Jersey over the next few hours, before the main slug of moisture approaches with the developing surface low. I think the start time for steady, accumulating snow is about 9 or 10 p.m. for southern New Jersey, and it spreads to the northern reaches of the state shortly after midnight.

The storm track has become focused just off the coastline, which will allow warm air aloft to switch precipitation to plain rain in Cape May County and eventually Cumberland, Atlantic and southern Ocean as well. Further north, expect several hours of accumulating heavy snow followed by a wintry mix dominated by sleet. All of New Jersey except perhaps Cape May and the extreme southeast coast will see accumulating snow before any change. Further north, north of the Route 1 corridor, the dominant precipitation type will be snow, with perhaps some sleet mixing in as well. A pair of high pressure centers will supply enough low level cold to keep the northern half of the state from changing to much other than heavy, wet snow. Tomorrow morning, the snowfall intensity will be truly incredible. All model guidance is suggesting about an inch of liquid equivalent in the form of snow in a six-hour period. From 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. or so, the northern half of the state will be facing near whiteout conditions, as snow falls two to three inches per hour. It may come in ebbs and flows if the system develops banded structure, but the bottom line is that travel will be downright dangerous.

The weight and intensity of the snow leads to another problem, as a second main feature of tomorrow’s blizzard will be winds gusting to 60 mph along the coast and 50 mph in the interior of New Jersey. This is a recipe for power outages and anywhere that sees heavy snow will be under the threat of losing power. I think the greatest risk is for residents in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties, as well as Staten Island and the surrounding area. Further north and west, the consistency of the snow should be a bit finer, and distance from the open ocean should keep winds a bit lighter.

The winds also will pin water in the Atlantic facing bays and inlets. Moderate coastal flooding is expected, and where it rains instead of snows, runoff will exacerbate the flooding potential. Cape May and Atlantic counties have a high risk of low road closures and swollen water systems, as up to three inches of rain could fall where things are wet, not white tomorrow.

The saving grace is that the storm is relatively a quick mover. It looks to be about a 15-hour event, precipitation-wise. The steady, accumulating precipitation should wrap up in the early afternoon Tuesday, statewide. Winds will remain breezy through Tuesday and Tuesday night, and as an upper level low swings behind the surface low Tuesday evening, snow showers could linger. I wouldn’t be shocked if there were some isolated snow squalls Wednesday morning.

So this multifaceted storm has several headlines. Snowfall totals up to, or possibly exceeding two feet will grab a lot of attention. Power outages, high winds and coastal flooding all deserve top billing as well. March is still quite the lion, despite being just a few days away from astronomical spring.

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