Meteorologist Cifelli: Joaquin’s Path Still Up In The Air

Ahead of what could be a nasty storm this weekend, Brick Township crews yesterday finished building a protective dune along the shore. By today the Atlantic Ocean had washed their work away. Joaquin has morphed from a tropical storm to a hurricane, and is drawing a bead on New Jersey. All shore towns can do is batten down and hope. NJTV News meteorologist John Cifelli is keeping a weather eye on the sky and spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.

Until recently the only weather story in New Jersey has been about the drought. Cifelli says, “We went through a round of heavy rain last night and we’ve seen already coastal erosion on the Jersey coastline. We’re going to see that over the next couple off days, even before Joaquin gets here as we deal with battling easterly winds.”

He says the latest trajectory for Joaquin shows winds at 85 miles an hour, making it a category one hurricane. “It’s moving southwest at eight miles an hour. It’s just northwest of the Bahamas right now. The tight shot shows that the upper level outflow, very healthy. The storm’s starting to really strengthen,” Cifelli said. “It’s taking on that circular look, the classic hurricane look. We see an eye starting to develop and over the next couple of days we’re going to see the hurricane start to climb the eastern seaboard. First it’s going to jog southwest and then slowly move northerly.”

The big question right now is where does it make landfall? Cifelli said that right now it looks like perhaps it’s going to scrape the Outer Banks or head just east of that and then take a slight turn to the west. “That means that it’s heading towards New Jersey, or right now, probably the Delmarva Peninsula. I’m thinking the best bet for landfall at this point is Monday morning on the border of Delaware and Maryland,” he said.

The kind of storm Joaquin will turn into is still up in the air, although Cifelli thinks rain will be a big impact. “We’re going to see rainfall on the order of two to four inches, even before Joaquin gets here,” he said. “We have another weather system stalled called a frontal boundary that’s helping steer Joaquin and keep it kind of pinned towards the east coast. That’s going to produce some rain of it’s own, so over the next couple of days we’re going to see two to four inches of rain from primarily Friday into early Saturday before Joaquin even gets here.”

He says once Joaquin arrives we can expect winds, storm surges and more rain. By the time it’s all said and done New Jersey could be looking at four to eight inches, or more, of rain in some locations across the state. Cifelli says that it’s important that at this point out, four days in advance, that we don’t overreact and throw Sandy comparisons out just yet. “Joaquin could have a major impact, but it’s best to just be prepared at this point. There’s a lot of different scenarios that could still happen. The storm could still curve and go out to sea, so it has the impact to bring just as much, if not more, rain than Sandy,” he said. “The wind field will be very strong. We will see definitely a tight pressure gradient which will bring winds on the order of tropical storm force to a lot of the state from perhaps Sunday mid-afternoon all the way into later in the day Monday.”

Cifelli says the rain right now is in response to a cold front that’s stalled along the eastern seaboard. “The upper level steering currents are kind of keeping Joaquin in this limbo state where we don’t know if it’s going to usher it out to sea or help draw it back towards the coast so it still remains to be seen.”