WEATHER

Wintry weather to bookend the weekend

BY John Cifelli, Meteorologist |
  • Frozen precipitation to impact northern and parts of central New Jersey Friday night and Sunday evening
  • Potential Sunday for heaviest snowfall of the season
  • Near-record cold expected midweek

Meteorological spring arrived at midnight Friday, and snow overspread much of New Jersey shortly thereafter. Coinciding with the morning commute, it was a wintry way to start the new season. In similar fashion to Marches past, we have more snow and sleet to contend with, as well as anomalous cold thereafter.

The first bout begins Friday evening, as a weak wave of low pressure slides west to east from the Ohio Valley off the mid-Atlantic coast. Rain will spread into southern New Jersey early Friday evening, and as precipitation spreads in central and northern counties later Friday night, a transition zone battleground will set up somewhere in between the Route 1 and 195 corridors. It’s a quick hitting system, in after dark and just about out of the picture near daybreak. It’s not particularly potent either, and accumulations will be minor, bordering on moderate. A general 1 to 3 inches is expected from the rain/snow line on north, with a pocket of heavier accumulations just to the north of wherever the mixing area sets up. I think the best chance for that is somewhere between Routes 202 and 80. Expect 3 or 4 inches in this band, with a few isolated spots creeping toward 5 inches. South of the rain/snow line, look for a wet night, clearing and drying out in the morning.

Most of the storms we’ve dealt with this winter have tracked over the state to our west. In these setups, we find the state in the “warm sector” of the storm, and the critical question was how much frozen precipitation fell before an inevitable changeover to freezing rain or plain rain. These two storms are tracking differently. The surface lows will slide west to east, south of the state, keeping portions of New Jersey under the influence of frozen precipitation for the duration of the event. In fact, as a general rule with either of them, if you begin as snow, expect to remain snow. If you begin with rain, expect it to stay wet not white. The rain/snow line will be relatively stationary for the duration of these systems. The exact path of each will dictate where exactly those battleground areas will be established.

Most of Saturday and the first half of Sunday will be dry, with mostly cloudy skies. Our next system races across the country, and spreads precipitation back across the state midafternoon on Sunday. The path and intensity of the Friday night system will lay the tracks for the Sunday event to follow. Therefore Friday’s system needs to run its course before I can say where I think the rain/snow line will be established Sunday evening. For now I will hedge the bet in favor of the seasonal trend for storms to track a bit further north than expected, as well as climatology which favors a more northerly path this time of the year. The Sunday event is stronger, and has more moisture to work with. For now, my first stab at snowfall totals will be for highest accumulations to be in the northern part of the state, and heavy enough to qualify as the biggest snow event of the winter. There will be a rapid decrease in snow accumulation as one moves south through the transition zone, and south of the rain/snow line. The Sunday event is also a fast mover, and by daybreak it’s over.

The rain/snow line and accumulation forecast will need to be honed as we get closer to the event. Regardless of the specifics, a high-impact winter weather event is likely for many residents of New Jersey on Sunday, after a minor to moderate event Friday night. Happy Spring!