By John Cifelli
NJTV News Meteorologist
– Remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine to impact New Jersey late Saturday and Sunday
– Several inches of rain possible
– Coastal erosion and minor flooding likely
Backyard barbecues and shore excursions are supposed to be the final chapter of the summer season across New Jersey this weekend, but a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico looks to write a different story Saturday and Sunday. Tropical Storm Hermine is currently in the eastern Gulf, about halfway between New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The storm will reach hurricane strength as it nears landfall, expected along the eastern panhandle of Florida after midnight tonight. Heavy rainfall from copious Gulf moisture will be a widespread strong impact across eastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina on Friday as Hermine tracks northeast along the eastern seaboard of the southern United States.
By the time Hermine approaches the Mid-Atlantic, it will have started to lose its tropical characteristics, and transition to an extratropical system. This means that Hermine will structurally operate as a nor’easter. That is not said to discount the potential impact of the storm which is still very high, particularly for the coast, but to give a hint of how the storm might behave further away from the shore. All model guidance suggest a pretty dramatic drop off in rainfall totals the further west you go. In fact, Hermine’s strongest winds to this point have been confined to her right flank, the “northeast and southeast quadrants” if you were to divide the storm in quarters. Since Hermine will not be a strong hurricane at landfall and isn’t racing north, I think the worst impacts will be felt by those who are closest to her eastern side. With a track just offshore of New Jersey by Sunday morning, that will be those in southern and coastal New Jersey.
I am hopeful that north and west of the Turnpike are going to see enough rain to affect plans and hamper travel, but the bigger concern will be south and east where the rain and winds look to be bad enough to warrant preparation for power outages and some flooding. Another serious concern is a stall scenario that some model guidance is suggesting, which would cause Hermine (or her extratropical remnants) to linger just southeast of the Delmarva Peninsula. In such a scenario, east/northeast winds of 30 to 40 knots along the coastline for 24 to 36 hours would pin water in the bays, not allowing the water to recede during the low tides of Saturday night and Sunday. In this possible scenario, high tides would bring high impact coastal flooding. The lunar cycle wanes with a new moon tomorrow night, so tides will already be running at relative extremes with the spring tide.
Different models handle the transition from tropical to extratropical systems differently and there are plenty of specifics to iron out over the next 48 hours. For now, everyone in New Jersey needs to be cautious and anticipate preparations for a significant weather event, especially if you are in southern or coastal New Jersey. Several inches of rain, moderate winds and coastal flooding are all real possibilities at this point.