A few inches of snow for NJ tonight: Messy AM commute likely
Part of New Jersey could see 2 to 4 inches of snow from Thursday night through Friday morning, enough to cause minor travel difficulties and school delays or closings.
UPDATE as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday...
REASONS WHY I AM CONCERNED ABOUT MY FORECAST:
--The spread of the first bands of rain at 7pm are not nearly as steady or widespread as I thought they would be.
--Temperatures have been running a few degrees warmer than expected.
--Latest models push the rain-snow transition and the timing of the heaviest snow potential a little bit later, from about 4am to 10am.
REASONS WHY I AM NOT CHANGING MY FORECAST:
--Although I rarely look at the "intermediate" model runs with any confidence, I like the downward trend of the 18Z NAM and the upward trend of the 18Z GFS (although admittedly a bit too far).
--I think we're going to see at least one mesoscale snow burst somewhere tomorrow morning... A brief period of heavy snow, that will accumulate quickly. That is where your 2 to 4+ inches will come from. Unfortunately, it's almost inevitable that this occurs during the morning rush hour.
--I'll stress once again that this isn't a BIG snowstorm, it is a NUISANCE snow. The timing is definitely the worst part here, coinciding with the morning commute. (I'm admittedly glad I'll be stuck at the radio station after about 2am.)
I've tweaked the wording of my snow forecast graphic slightly. No new information, and no changes to the actual forecast map. Here's the latest version:
Repeat after me, New Jersey... This is not a major "bread and milk" snowstorm. We can deal with a few inches of freshly fallen snow, even during the morning rush hour. We will not panic.
The snow that falls tonight through tomorrow morning has been upgraded from the "conversational" category to the "nuisance" category for part of the state. Most of the accumulation will occur on grassy surfaces since roads are still wet and relatively warm, thanks to Wednesday's rain.
We have been watching this storm all week, and I advertised a "near-miss" for New Jersey on Monday. Since then, forecast models have trended the storm track back toward the coast.
In this morning's weather blog post, I commented about how temperatures would be incredibly important for this storm, and one of the reasons our snow forecast was so meager. Since then, the models have trended a bit colder.
So we are increasing our snow forecast a little bit. And I think it's time to put out a snow forecast map, to clearly illustrate our thinking with the impending snow.
This is a coastal storm system, just clipping New Jersey, so all precipitation will start in the south and progress northward throughout the storm's progression.
A few rain showers may lap up across the southern coast late this afternoon.
The main storm system, however, won't come into view until about 7 p.m. this evening. At that time, temperatures will be in the lower 40s or so - too warm to sustain all snow. So for this evening, we'll see rain or wintry mix spread from southern to central New Jersey. As you know, rain alone may make for poor driving conditions.
Just after midnight, the atmospheric column will have cooled enough to enact a transition to all snow. By that time, the band of precipitation will have likely progressed into North Jersey as well.
The heaviest snow (and therefore fastest accumulations) will probably happen between about 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday.
We could then see a brief transition back to light rain/mix, before precipitation ends completely around late morning Friday.
As the map at the top of this article shows, our latest forecast calls for 2 to 4 inches of snow generally along and east of the New Jersey Turnpike. The "sweet spot" for this snow accumulation looks to be around Monmouth, Ocean, and Atlantic counties.
Model lovers, you should know that while the NAM was the biggest snowmaker this morning, the Euro is now throwing out the most bonkers 7+ inch totals. Would I rule out seeing a 5 or 6 inch total? Nope.
The further north and west you are, the lower your snow totals will be. The rest of New Jersey could see anywhere from a coating to 2 inches of snow by the time the storm winds down Friday morning.
As I mentioned earlier, wet/warm road surfaces will play a role in how quickly the snow accumulates. Grass and cold surfaces (including cars) will probably see the most snow pile up. A coating on roadways could be slippery and potentially hazardous, but light snow should be manageable for most drivers and plow crews alike through Friday morning.
Of course, this forecast is also highly dependent on the timing of the rain-snow changeover and the heaviest precipitation. If the changeover occurs later (or doesn't happen at all), this snow forecast will be a bust and we'll just have to deal with rain for the morning.
I could play the "what if" game forever on snow forecasts like this. In the end, I am comfortable with our current 2-4" forecast, given the best data available right now.
Let's be clear... This storm's potential impacts will not even come close to the Blizzard of 2016, nor several of the moderate to major snowstorms we've had in recent memory. And no flooding, coastal or otherwise, is expected from this storm.
However, the timing of this storm is far from ideal: the heaviest snow, the worst road conditions, and the lowest visibility will all coincide with the morning rush.
I suspect school superintendents will be awake very early on Friday to assess the situation in their town and make the call about a school delay or closing. In my professional opinion, it's probably a bit premature to make that call tonight before the snow starts to fall.
Stay Ahead of the Storm
As long as you stay informed, stay smart, and be flexible, this snowstorm should be mostly manageable. Our team will be on top of the latest storm-related traffic, weather, and news updates on the radio all night long. In addition, you'll hopefully find the following links useful:
--Stormwatch Closings (Schools, etc.)
--New Jersey Fast Traffic
--Download Our FREE Mobile App
--Dan Zarrow's Weather Blog
--Weather News and Information
Dan Zarrow is the Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.