UPDATE: Gov. Christie has declared a state of emergency for Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.
By John Cifelli
NJTV News Meteorologist
– Biggest Impact: Coastal Flooding, Coastal Winds
– Decreased Threat of Heavy Rain
– Storm to Stall, Drift Toward New Jersey on Sunday
Rainfall from Hermine has overspread Cape May and other portions of extreme southeast New Jersey. The storm center is still located just east of the Virginia/North Carolina border, with sustained winds of 65 mph: a healthy and potent tropical storm. Ocean water temperatures along the coast and offshore in Hermine’s path are in the mid-70s. With Hermine’s anticipated path northeast of her current location, the warm ocean waters will help the system to maintain its strength. Hermine now has both tropical and extratropical characteristics, so it’s perhaps best to classify the storm as a hybrid system. Meteorological semantics really, because the regardless of how the system is defined or classified, it doesn’t change the severity of impact or threat it poses to New Jersey.
As the afternoon progresses today, the storm center will slide east-northeast before slowing and meandering further north, bringing its closest approach to New Jersey by Monday morning. The next 36 hours are a critical period for determining the level of impact that rain and wind will have on the eastern and southern parts of the state. If Hermine’s center drifts north sooner than later today, a larger swath of the state will experience stronger wind and more rains than if she swings out further east than turning north. The threat of coastal flooding is set in stone regardless of exact path and it will be a major issue for at least the southern half of the coast, if not further north as well.
The worst threat for coastal flooding will be with the high tides of Sunday night, Monday morning and Monday night as Hermine spins off the coast. The easterly, then northeasterly winds likely meeting tropical storm force criteria for the coastline will hamper the ability of water to drain out of the bays and tidal rivers during the low tide periods. The recent new moon will only augment the high tide water levels, further increasing the threat of major flooding. High tides arrive around 7 a.m. and p.m. on Sunday, and closer to 8 a.m. and p.m. on Monday.
Heavy rainfall will only further exacerbate flooding issues; Hermine’s path is therefore so critical to the safety of coastal communities. New Jersey will dance along the western edge of the precipitation shield, and there will be a sharp cut-off of rainfall to the west. Cape May, Atlantic and eastern Ocean counties will likely see two to four inches of rain. A slight jog west can increase those totals, and spread significant rain back toward I-95 as well. Worst stretch for rain looks to be Sunday evening into Monday morning, although bands of rain squalls could push west from the storm across the state at any time over the next three days. Rain will likely be periodic in nature, especially away from the coast where it will be steadiest and heaviest.
With Hermine slated to spin off our coastline through Wednesday, heavy surf will batter the beaches, causing significant beach erosion and dune breaches.
Coastal residents, if they haven’t already, should make every preparation and take every precaution for flooding, power outages and wind damage. Hermine will likely etch her name in the book of memorable New Jersey weather events by the time she finally weakens and drifts east by Wednesday.