NJTV News Weather: First Day of Spring to Bring Snow

20150319_SMQ_SnowMapBy Meteorologist John Cifelli

Tomorrow at 10:45 p.m., the Spring Equinox will arrive in the northern hemisphere, but you won’t know it if you are out and about or peek out your window before bed. A daytime snowstorm will have it looking more December than March, with snow beginning as early as the morning rush.

Low pressure will consolidate over the southeastern United States today and drift northeast tonight and tomorrow, sliding well south of the New Jersey coast. It is drawing a slug of Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic moisture with it, and favorable features aloft will enhance the surface low’s precipitation shield. The result is snow beginning a little before daybreak in New Jersey, from west to east. Through the morning and into the afternoon, snow will fall light to moderate, with perhaps a few periods of heavier snow in central New Jersey in the early afternoon. Far southern New Jersey will see flakes quickly change to raindrops, and the rain/snow line will creep northward as the day goes on. Snow should mix or change to rain as far north as 195.

A 12-hour period of snow surely will pile up, right? This one will be all about intensity. Even with cloud cover, more sunlight reaches the earth now than in mid-winter, and that makes it harder to accumulate where it counts — on the roads. Pinpointing snowfall intensity is not easy a day or two in advance. Further, if snow is delayed by just a few hours, that’s going to allow roads to warm more than expected, further aiding in melting. Light snow won’t accumulate on roads tomorrow, but whoever sees the steadier rates will see roads whiten up. The biggest issue that this storm will cause, in my opinion, is that the heaviest snow looks to fall about when schools are letting out in the mid afternoon. That’s the likeliest time frame for slow going.

So the forecast map gives an idea of what will fall, mainly on grassy surfaces and car tops. I am not expecting more than a slushy inch or two on roads anywhere except perhaps higher elevations in northwestern New Jersey. Here, recent guidance suggests less snow falls overall, but I will keep that bulls eye over the highest hills in Warren and Morris because of the better ability to accumulate.

So while this storm will not be a blockbuster winter event by any means, the psychological impact of accumulating snow on the first day of spring will be high, especially after the winter we’ve had. The proper diagnosis is another cup of well made hot chocolate and lighting the fireplace. If you are particularly distressed, a stiff drink instead. The bright side — most of this will melt on Saturday if we see more sun than clouds.