Winter Storm Warning: ‘Moderate’ snow will snarl NJ’s Friday AM commute
The Bottom Line
Winter storm warnings and advisories have been issued, as New Jersey preps for its third winter storm in less than a week. This one, mainly an overnight snow-maker, will probably whiten the landscape everywhere in New Jersey. That means you'll go to sleep with bare ground outside, and wake up to a winter wonderland. (Let the record show that my kids are very excited, and plan to wear their pajamas inside-out to entire snowfall overnight.)
Low visibility and icy roads will make for treacherous travel across the state Friday morning. There are already a few school and business delays, with many more (and probably closings) to come.
But it's not a "bread and milk" kind of storm. It's going to move fast, with the potential for steady snow lasting only a few hours. By lunchtime Friday, the sun will be out and the melt-a-thon will begin.
I think we have a pretty good handle on how the storm is going to play out. For this final forecast update before flakes begin to fly, I just wanted to tweak some things on my snowfall map. Just to match up with the latest forecast model guidance trends. If you've been following my blogs and updates, there should be zero surprises here.
—First Flakes... Light snow will move into New Jersey Thursday evening, mainly after 10 p.m.
—The Brunt... Snowfall will become heavier during the overnight hours, peaking between about 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. (Coinciding with most of the early AM rush hour — yuck.)
—Final Flakes... The winter storm should then wind down quickly, exiting the state between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday morning.
—The Rest of Friday... Sunny, but blustery. Wind gusts to 30 mph may continue to blow snow around, causing some drifts and obscuring visibility.
My final forecast map is very similar to the one I published Thursday morning, with two additional contours providing some extra detail on opposite corners of the state. Let's divide the state into four regions:
—Northwestern New Jersey... Too Far, Too Dry... 1 to 3 inches... Just like we said with Monday's big snow machine: North Jersey this ain't your storm. The area around Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon counties especially are expected to miss the steadiest snow bands from this storm system. It's both a matter of distance, and also a matter of dry air intruding the atmosphere, making it very difficult to sustain big snowfall. I still expect some accumulating snow. Just not much.
—Northern Half of the Turnpike Corridor... Healthy Snowfall... 2 to 4 inches... For many in this segment of the Winter Weather Advisory, you will see the first snow accumulation of the season overnight. I've held pretty steady on an "about 3 inches" forecast, and that still seems to be the case. Any threat of heavier, mesoscale snow bands should stay south of Interstate 195.
—Inland South Jersey... The Sweet Spot... 4 to 6+ inches... Once again, the snowfall bullseye will be in the southern half of the state. Bands of moderate snow are likely. Bands of heavy snow (1-2 inches per hour) are possible. Hence, the Winter Storm Warning. Hence, the "plus" on this forecast range. If conditions are perfect, there is a chance for overperformance in isolated areas, with snow totals potentially approaching 7" or even 8". That's some pretty serious snow. (Especially with the leftovers from Monday's storm still on the ground across South Jersey.)
—The Southern Coast... The Mixing Bowl... 2 to 6+ inches... Sorry for the unusually large forecast range on this one, but there is a huge question mark involved with the area east of the Parkway in Cape May, Atlantic, and Ocean counties. The center core of this storm system carries warmer air. If it gets close enough to the Jersey Shore, temperatures would warm just enough for the snow to mix with and/or change to rain. In such a scenario, you would still see some snow accumulation, in addition to slushy travel conditions (at least). If mixing doesn't occur, the coast could fall under the same heavier snow threat described in the "sweet spot" section above.
Are you sick of me saying over and over again that Friday morning's commute looks messy? I don't want another November 2018 ("Brinegate") situation on our hands, with surprised drivers on dangerously congested roads.
It's worth noting that plows usually can't hit the road until there's 3 or 4 inches on the ground. That won't necessarily happen everywhere. And we may not have that much by the start of the morning rush. So that could contribute to sloppier-than-expected road conditions for a while.
Since most of the state falls somewhere between "light" and "moderate" snowfall, superintendents may want to wait until early morning to make a call on delay vs. closing.
My best advice: You might want to set your alarm clock a bit earlier for Friday morning, so you have extra time to react to changing weather and road conditions.
The National Weather Service opted to upgrade parts of 8 NJ counties to a Winter Storm Warning, in effect from 10 p.m. Thursday through 10 a.m. Friday. This is highlighting the area of the state that could top 6 inches of snow.
The rest of New Jersey falls under a less-urgent, less-severe Winter Weather Advisory, also effective from late Thursday evening through late Friday morning. The advisory specifically references "slippery roads" impacting the morning commute.
The Final Word
As I have said many times, this does not have the makings of a blockbuster, historic, major winter storm. Still, snowy, icy roads and wintry conditions can lead to big problems here in the most densely populated state in the country. I hope you take it seriously, consider your Friday morning plans carefully, and take intelligent steps to keep yourself safe.
Our Winter Weather Alert coverage has already begun, and will ramp up further as the snowfall intensifies overnight. As always, you'll find regular traffic and weather updates every 15 minutes on your radio. (I'll be live in-studio starting at 3 a.m.) And our entire team will continue tracking the storm and its impacts until the final flakes fly. You can also get the latest via web, app, and social media.
Enjoy the snow!
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.