Biggest concern for NJ for Thursday night’s cold front: Wind
The Bottom Line
We have been waiting for this day all week long, as 60s return to New Jersey! You can shed the heavy winter coat for a day, as Thursday's temperatures run about 15 degrees warmer than Wednesday and about 15 degrees above-normal for mid-February.
However, a big transition is ahead. A potent cold front is sliding across the country right now. Heavy snow in the Plains. Flooding concerns for the Midwest. A severe weather outbreak in the Deep South.
Thursday night, it will be New Jersey's turn to feel some nasty weather from that frontal boundary. We face some heavy rain, rumbles of thunder, and an eventual cooldown into Friday.
But, as the headline of this post suggests, my number one concern from this storm system is wind. On the order of 40 to 50 mph gusts, peaking early Friday morning. That will be enough to cause sporadic power outages, make driving difficult, and thoroughly relocate your garbage can.
The weekend forecast looks cooler, and mainly quiet.
Warm and breezy.
Overnight, temperatures only dropped into the 40s and 50s across almost all of New Jersey. (The lone exception: the far northwest corner.) That's ridiculously warm for February — already above normal high temperatures for this time of year!
Highs will easily push into the lower 60s by Thursday afternoon. (Again, except for NW NJ.) Skies will be mostly cloudy. And it will be breezy, with southerly wind gusts coming close to 30 mph.
Thursday daytime will be mainly dry. A few models push rain showers into North Jersey around the late afternoon hours (after 3 p.m.) But the "main event" storm system will hold off until much later.
Wet and windy.
As I mentioned, first raindrops may push into the state in the afternoon. More likely, we'll see initial rainfall spread across western and northern New Jersey after about 6 p.m. And then everyone in the state will get wet after about 11 p.m.
Total rainfall will range from a quarter-inch in South Jersey, to upwards of an inch farther north. Possibly a bit more, if a downpour-ish pocket of heavy rain develops. The rain is good news — about 48 percent of New Jersey is now classified as "abnormally dry". Not quite drought, but the southern and northwestern parts of the state are being monitored closely.
Given the warmth and humidity in the atmosphere (temperatures still in the 50s overnight), some embedded thunderstorms are possible early Friday morning. Best timing for that would be between about 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., sweeping from northwest to southeast. Severe weather is unlikely, but rumbles of thunder are rare in February.
And then there's the wind. About a half-mile to a mile over our heads Friday morning, a river of wind will be screaming — on the order of 100 mph. Again, that's up in the air, not at the surface. But if any little piece of that wind mixes down to the surface (usually due to heavy rain), we could still see some 50+ mph gusts. That's pretty powerful, and will certainly make for a nasty start to your Friday.
A Wind Advisory has been issued for all 21 counties of New Jersey, from 11 p.m. Friday evening through 10 a.m. Saturday morning. (Same timing for everyone — nice coordination, NWS!)
A day of transition.
The stormy weather — rain and wind — should wrap up by mid-morning. (Probably by around 9 or 10 a.m.) Skies will quickly clear to partial sunshine thereafter. And temperatures will start to tumble.
We may hit 60 degrees one more time Friday morning. But by Friday afternoon, thermometers will drop into the 30s and 40s. Although winds will be lighter than during the height of the storm, it will stay breezy to blustery throughout the day.
Friday night, temps drop into the 20s. Teens in the coldest spots. I am not worried about a "flash freeze" here — puddles and wet spots will have plenty of time to dry up before temperatures fall below freezing.
The Weekend & Beyond
The upcoming President's Day holiday weekend will be mainly quiet. It will start cool and end mild.
On Saturday, another (weak) shot of cold air pushes in. As it does, a northwest wind will kick up again, potentially gusting to 30-40 mph. So it's going to be a bright and blustery day, with partly sunny skies.
There's also a chance for some snow showers to creep into the state around midday Saturday. Best chance would be northwestern New Jersey.
Sunday will be calmer, although cooler. Highs in the upper 30s would be a bit below seasonal normals. We should see plenty of sunshine.
By far, the nicest day of the extended holiday weekend will be President's Day Monday. Highs push into the lower-mid 50s. Although we'll progress from sun to clouds throughout the day, winds will stay light and our weather will remain dry. A very nice, mild February day.
The next storm system down the road looks to arrive on Tuesday. And latest guidance suggests a pretty soggy period of weather, throughout the day Tuesday. With temperatures in the 50s, we are once again looking at a rainmaker. Not a flake of snow.
Having said that, next week will stay unsettled. And there is another storm system showing up in the forecast for late next week, in the Thursday-Friday time frame. That one could have a wintry component, for at least the northern half of the state. More than a week away, it falls into the "worth watching" category. Lots of things can change between now and then. (Especially with two other powerful storm systems to worry about before then.)
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.