Mother Nature to New Jersey: It’s still winter!
The latest forecast for the Garden State tells a story of wind, cold air, and a few snowflakes through the first weekend of March.
Here are your weather headlines for Thursday, March 2, 2017...
Thunderstorms? What thunderstorms?
Yes, New Jersey experienced two rounds of rain on Wednesday. Yes, the timing was right on forecast. But the second round of storms, which had moderate to high severe weather potential, was mostly a "fizzle" for the Garden State. Maybe you felt a few minutes of heavy rain and some angry wind gusts, but that was the exception and not the rule for Wednesday's storms.
So, what happened? I think three factors were at play:
--First, I believe the early round of rain (between mid-morning and midday) helped to "zap" some of the instability (energy) out of New Jersey's atmosphere, especially in central and northern New Jersey. When the second round of storms arrived later, there wasn't much "fuel" left to help the storms "explode" over the Garden State, as feared.
--Second, temperatures were a few degrees cooler than forecast. Even though we did set a record high at Atlantic City International Airport (73 degrees), our forecast called for mid 70s. Those few degrees could have made a significant difference. As I said in Wednesday's weather blog, the warmer the temperatures, the stronger the storms. The inverse happened, to an extent: because temperatures underperformed, so did the thunderstorms.
--Third, those storms were flying. 60 mph forward motion just doesn't allow for storms to grow and develop strong updrafts and rotation — they get sheared apart at all levels of the atmosphere. Of course, such quick-moving storms also "come and go" very quickly in any given location, also limiting the potential for big, bad impacts.
You should know that I do not regret my forecast of strong thunderstorms in the slightest. The severe weather parameters were present, and the storms did happen. And it's my job to communicate any risk of dangerous weather, which I did. Keep in mind, torrential rain, 60 mph wind gusts, and a few instances of damage were reported out of Cape May County. We should consider ourselves very lucky.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Behind the stormy weather came an overnight cold front, which dramatically increased wind speeds over New Jersey early Thursday morning. Gusts over 40 mph have already become a regular occurrence. (I personally had to dodge a huge tumbleweed, a bag of garbage, and a downed tree branch on my ride to work.)
Gusts to 50 mph will be possible through late morning Thursday, as colder air "whooshes" back into the Garden State. The National Weather Service offices in Mt. Holly and Upton, NY have issued a High Wind Warning for all 21 counties in New Jersey.
Even though temperatures are still in the 50s and 60s as of this writing, thermometers will plummet to the 30s by mid-morning. I think we'll see a little bit of warming through Thursday afternoon, assisted by plentiful sunshine. Afternoon temps should recover to around the mid 40s. (I can't call them "high temperatures" because our maximum temperature for the calendar day occured just after midnight Thursday morning.)
Thursday night looks clear and cold, with low temperatures dipping into the upper 20s to lower 30s. That means the coldest spots in New Jersey could experience a few hours of "hard freeze" (generally at or below 27 degrees). That could hurt trees and flowers that are already budding due to the recent record warmth. (Especially since there's more cold temperatures on the way!)
A Few Snowflakes
On Friday, a clipper system will bring a chance for snow and rain showers to the Garden State, mainly in the afternoon. The forecast models have really backed off on these showers. And rightfully so — the incoming storm system will be quite weak, and accumulating snow will be incredibly difficult given our warm ground. I'll still propose the possibility of up to a half-inch of snow on the ground by Friday evening, but I highly doubt this one is going to be significant at all. High temperatures on Friday will get stuck in the below-normal lower 40s.
A reinforcing shot of cold air arrives by Saturday, and so temperatures go downhill once again. It's going to be downright frigid on Saturday morning, with widespread upper teens across New Jersey. (We haven't been that cold since February 10!)
Despite sunshine, Saturday afternoon's high temperatures are only in the lower to mid 30s. While we'll recover to around 40 degrees on Sunday, it's going to be a "bundle up" first weekend of March, for sure!
Southwesterly winds will kick on the warm air advection machine early next week. That will allow temperatures to moderate to the 50s on Monday and the 60s on Tuesday.