Two storm systems aiming for NJ: Wet and windy, then cold and icy
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For the latest winter storm forecast information, please refer to my newest weather blog post.
The Bottom Line
Happy Tuesday 2/22/22! How appropriate that we have two storm systems in view this week. The first will drive wet and windy weather into New Jersey on Tuesday. But at least it's warm enough that we don't have to worry about wintry weather. For now.
The next system will arrive in the Thursday to Friday time frame. With cold air returning by then, there will be a wintry component to that system. But don't let anyone call it a "snow" storm. It looks like an icy mix of sleet and freezing rain will be the dominant precipitation type, with a period of just plain rain in South Jersey. Having said that, there could still be some accumulations and messy travel — Friday morning's commute will be the one to watch.
After a beautiful, mild day Monday, we're starting off Tuesday calm and cool. Some moisture has invaded southern and coastal New Jersey, preventing AM temperatures from falling below the 40s. Farther northwest, it's drier and colder, only in the 20s in North Jersey. So you may need to pop your head out the door to decide whether you'll need the heavy winter coat Tuesday morning. You will not need it later on.
The first part of Tuesday will be mostly cloudy and breezy. There could be spotty sprinkles and some fog around between breakfast and lunch. High temperatures will reach the mid 50s (north) to mid 60s (south). That is 10 to 20 degrees above normal for late February.
Eventually, everyone in New Jersey will get wet. A batch of steady rain will start pushing eastward into New Jersey around mid-afternoon (let's say 2 p.m.) And then scattered rain will fall over New Jersey right through Tuesday night.
There is zero concern here for wintry weather — temperatures will be in the 50s for the duration. I'm also not concerned about flooding or severe weather (convective wind, hail, or tornadoes).
However, you will notice a yellow "alert" icon on the 5 Day Forecast. That is for wind. Just like over the weekend, New Jersey will end up on the edge of a low-level jet streak — strong winds about a mile overhead. Heavy rain can force those winds closer to the surface. So I think it's reasonable to expect gusts in the 30 to 40+ mph range. Timing of the strongest gusts would be centered around the dinnertime hours Tuesday evening.
The day starts wet. Lingering showers from the overnight rain should end between about 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. And then we'll catch a few hours of pleasant, extra warm weather before temperatures tumble again.
High temperatures on Wednesday will surge into the mid to upper 60s. 70 degrees is a possibility for inland South Jersey, for only the second time this year.
Thermometers may start to slip downward in North Jersey around the middle of the afternoon. But for most of the state, the arrival of colder air will hold off until sunset or later Wednesday evening.
Overnight low temperatures will drop below freezing by Thursday morning.
Thursday & Friday
Well, no more 60s. Highs on Thursday will only reach the mid to upper 30s. And with another area of low pressure aiming for New Jersey, some degree of wintry weather is still looking likely.
However, it is becoming clear that this is not going to be an "all snow" or even "mostly snow" situation. Plenty of moisture. Temperatures will be cold enough at the surface. But with warming of the layers just above ground-level, sleet and freezing rain are expected to be the predominant precipitation types.
I refer to that as an "icy mix," and can obviously be a very slippery situation.
At this point, it looks like some light snow and icy mix will be possible from a first wave of energy daytime Thursday. Nothing crazy yet.
Then, the "main event" comes in Thursday night into early Friday. Things will probably begin with snow in northern New Jersey and that icy mix to the south. As temperatures warm in the mid layers, we'll probably see a transition overnight from "snow and mix" to "mix and rain". (For the southern half of the state, it will probably turn to all rain by daybreak Friday.)
It's still too early to talk about snow and ice accumulation numbers. This is a complicated situation, and precipitation type will be directly related to the precise storm track and temperatures. Needless to say, I remain very concerned about a period of treacherous travel conditions. Especially across the northern half of the state. Especially for Friday morning's rush hour.
I'm hopeful we'll be able to start talking about more details about 24 hours from now. Let's get past Tuesday night's rainmaker first, and take things one storm at a time.
The Extended Forecast
The final few days of February also look unseasonably cold. Saturday will be the bottom of the barrel of our next cold snap, with temperatures potentially stuck below normal all day. And then a weak coastal storm system may clip NJ's southern coast on Sunday with some light snow/rain. Our next opportunity for a bigger storm wouldn't come until the second half of next week.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.