Parts of NJ under blizzard warning for powerful winter storm

BY John Cifelli, Meteorologist |

We have a very powerful storm climbing the eastern seaboard as we speak. Winter storm watches have been upgraded to blizzard warnings for Monmouth County, as well as coastal portions of Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington and Cape May Counties. The rest of the state is under Winter Storm Warnings or Advisories. The storm is still far enough away that we saw a gorgeous sunset this evening across New Jersey, but we will wake up tomorrow to quite a different sight.

Our coastal low formed east of Miami this afternoon. We don’t normally see winter storm systems form quite this far south, but the cold front that has ushered in record cold in the mid-Atlantic has pushed all the way to the Gulf states. The boundary between the arctic cold and tropical air to the south acts as a powder keg, and when upper level energy across the gulf states reached this boundary today, it was like tossing in a stick of dynamite. The deepening has been rapid, and this will continue as the storm climbs latitude overnight. “Bombogenesis” is defined as a storm deepening by 1mb of pressure per hour. Our storm is dropping nearly 2mb per hour, and will reach pressure levels close to Hurricane Sandy by the time it is east of New Jersey.

Snow begins overnight tonight, close to midnight- south first, then north as the night progresses. By daybreak, its snowing almost everywhere, except perhaps not yet in the highest elevations of northwest New Jersey. Steadiest snow will be mid-morning through midday. Snow tapers after noon, lingering until late afternoon in the northeast and at northern shore locations.

This model roughly depicts the radar at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. Note the band over the NYC metro stretching southeast, with very little falling on either side of the band. As you move east closer to the low, another band is present off the coast.

Winds will blow 30 to 40 miles per hour along the immediate coast, with higher gusts. Elsewhere, winds will be lighter but noticeable, especially if you find yourself in one of the heavier bands. Gusts statewide could be strong enough to take out some tree limbs and compromise power.

I expect snowfall to be banded in nature. This is the kind of scenario where one stripe of the state sees snowfall rates of a couple of inches an hour, and locations immediate adjacent, particularly north & west of the band see much lighter rates or even a complete cutoff for a time.

Just as important as the snow and wind will be the record cold coming behind this storm. Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night will all bring opportunities to challenge record lows, with temperatures near zero and wind chills well below.

Highest amounts are expected in locations most likely to find themselves under heavier bands. The further from the off-the-coast low pressure center you are, the less likely that these upper level features are going to affect you. Remember, someone will likely see their snow totals cut back from the forecasted amount, while someone just east in a heavier band has theirs inflated. That’s somewhat the natures of a mature, deep cyclone such as this, especially since we have a dry, polar air mass in place before and after the storm, as well as during on the northwest side of the low.

By Friday, most of New Jersey will be much more concerned with dangerous cold than exactly how much snow fell. With the possibility of losing power due to the strong winds, New Jerseyans should take the opportunity tonight to make sure that they have whatever they need to stay comfortable if the electricity fails. By Sunday, temperatures will be in the balmy upper 20’s, with another chance of rain or snow on Monday.