Busy, wintry forecast for NJ: Arctic air now, weekend snow and rain
Thermometers will drop and winds will become fierce on Thursday, with dangerous wind chills expected Friday morning and snow arriving by Saturday morning.
Hey South Jersey, congratulations on seeing your first snowflakes of the season early Thursday morning! As of this writing, the top snow total has been 1.0 inch in Mount Holly, Burlington County. We've had reports of scattered icy spots south of Interstate 195, especially along the Atlantic City Expressway. The overnight light snow was just an appetizer to the wintry weather that's coming up for the Garden State.
This is an exceptionally active weather forecast, so I'm going to break it down day-by-day...
Arctic air is now arriving, albeit a little bit behind schedule. Thermometers will steadily drop through Thursday late morning, before settling in the chilly mid 20s (at best) through the late morning and afternoon hours. A fierce wind will increase as well, with regular wind gusts to 30 or 40 mph. The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union counties from 9 a.m. through 6 p.m. Thursday.
This blustery, cold Thursday will be followed by a bitterly frigid Thursday night. Low temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits (North Jersey) to lower teens. But that doesn't even come close to telling the entire story, as winds potentially gust even higher, to 40 or 50 mph. A High Wind Warning will go into effect from 6 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Friday for northeastern New Jersey.
So the wind chill ("feels like" temperature) is forecast to dip below zero for most of the Garden State by Friday morning. That's not just regular cold, it is dangerous cold. The human body loses heat/energy very quickly at that temperature, and exposed skin is especially prone to suffering from frostbite.
Friday stays cold, with high temps only in the mid 20s. That's about 20 degrees below normal for mid-December, by the way. At least we'll get lighter winds by midday, under mostly sunny skies.
Friday Night-Saturday Morning
Our next storm system - a warm front - will arrive in the midst of our deep freeze. That means a stretch of wintry weather is likely as we dive into the weekend. For most of the Garden State, the snow impacts of this winter storm will be minor. But we could see several inches of snow pile up with a glaze of ice in North Jersey.
First flakes could begin moving into New Jersey as early as about 10 p.m. Friday night. Initial snowfall overnight will be light, with precipitation intensity picking up just after sunrise on Saturday.
Now, here's where the forecast gets very complicated. While it will certainly be cold enough for all snow at the beginning of this storm, an influx of much warmer air will creep from south to north between 5 a.m. and Noon on Saturday. That will enact a quick transition from snow to sleet/freezing rain to rain. The exact timing of this warmup and the changeover will have a significant impact on how much snow falls and accumulates. Especially since the heaviest precipitation of the day is forecast to occur just after the expected warmup.
Here's a rundown, by region, of my current thinking regarding this wintry weather and the snow-rain transition time. Also refer to the snowfall forecast map at the top of this article for a graphical depiction of this tough forecast.
South Coast... The first to pop above freezing early Saturday morning. Snow totals will be limited to less than an inch, with a mostly rainy forecast.
Interior South Jersey... Temperatures should climb above freezing by early-to-mid Saturday morning. About an inch of snow may accumulate, before a cold rain takes over.
Central Jersey... Things could get pretty slippery and slushy, especially along and northwest of Route 1. That's the area of the state expected to see the biggest wintry impacts from this storm, potentially surpassing two inches of snow before the mid-morning changeover. SE of Route 1, an inch or two of snow should accumulate before transitioning to rain.
Northeast NJ (NYC suburbs)... Right on the border between "shovelable" (2 inches) and "plowable" (4 inches) snow. The further north and west you are, the higher the potential snow totals will be, before transitioning briefly to ice then rain from mid-to-late morning.
Northwest NJ (higher elevations)... As usual, this will be the bullseye of highest snow totals from this storm. As warmer air slowly arrives by late morning, a changeover to sleet and freezing rain may produce about a tenth of an inch of ice on top of 4+ inches of snow. I don't want to put an "upper bound" on that snow forecast yet. Could 6 inches (or even more) of snow accumulate around Sussex/Passaic counties? Absolutely - if the warmer air is delayed in its arrival.
Rain will taper off to scattered showers by Saturday afternoon through Saturday evening. Temperatures will climb through the 40s into the 50s.
And how about near 60 degrees on Sunday! A nice recovery from those blustery mid 20s on Thursday and Friday, for sure.
But our next storm system will be a cold front sweeping a band of heavy rain from northwest to southeast from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. While a few snow showers are possible on the backside of the precipitation and the ensuing front, Sunday is going to primarily be a wet day.
Early Next Week
And yes, Sunday's cold front will lead to another cooldown by Monday. High temperatures are forecast to fall to the mid 30s to around 40 degrees.
Models show a near-miss coastal storm system in the Tuesday night-Wednesday time frame. But there's plenty of time for that to wiggle and change.