The biggest one yet? Major nor’easter expected Wednesday

BY John Cifelli, Meteorologist |
  • Crippling, historic March snowstorm imminent
  • Over a foot of snow in places
  • Coastal flooding concerns, particularly southern coast
  • Widespread power outages possible

Happy spring, New Jersey. Although many are focused on big snow totals tomorrow, let’s start with the “right now” weather-wise in New Jersey. The first wave of precipitation in our “one-two punch” of midweek winter weather has spread snow, sleet and freezing rain across central and southern New Jersey. This will persist into the first half of the night. As the sun sets and surface temperatures slide below freezing, I’m concerned about icing potential when precipitation falls as drizzle. If you see a burst of heavier precipitation, it’s likely to be snow or sleet. When the intensity lessens, that’s when you’re at risk to see a glaze. This is the worry east of Philadelphia and into the Pine Barrens Tuesday night. Snow and sleet accumulations will be minor, otherwise.

As we progress through the night, precipitation will taper or even end in most locations, except perhaps extreme southern New Jersey. As our new coastal low develops, precipitation will blossom as the upper level dynamics do their dirty work. By 8 or 9 a.m., snow should have spread into far northwestern New Jersey. The rest of the state will be steadily snowing, except some sleet and rain may be mixed in across Cape May County and adjacent parts of the state. Even here, low and midlevel cold should be scoured out by late morning, turning everything to snow statewide. Then, it snows in buckets. I still think the Turnpike corridor is the axis of heaviest snow, give or take a few miles on either side. Along this path, expect over a foot of snow on non-paved surfaces, and a bit less on the streets. Outside this axis, there will be a bit less, but still substantial totals that could approach a foot or more in a few spots. There will be less where there are mixing issues along the southeast coast and in Cape May County. I also think there’s a sharp cutoff on the northwest fringe of the system. This could clip totals in Sussex, Passaic, and western Bergen Counties, or the cutoff line could be just north of there.

The heavy snow and prolific totals are due in part to the very slow movement of the coastal low. Its nearly stationary movement will result in a couple feet of storm surge, inundating southern coastal bays and inlets with “moderate” or borderline “major” flooding. Another aspect of this storm that can’t be understated is once again the threat of widespread power outages. This snow is heavy and water-laden, it will snap branches and bring trees down. This is a particular concern for anyone seeing icing tonight. Strong winds should be confined to coastal counties. Blizzard conditions could be realized at times along the immediate coast, especially in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Snow tapers west to east in the early evening Wednesday, and should be over by about midnight. That means we will all need Thursday to dig out and recover. This should be a storm that causes multiple days of closings, especially if the outages are realized. If the forecast comes to fruition, it’s a historic storm in a parade of nearly unprecedented March winter weather.