Sunday weather for NJ: Lots of rain, arctic wind, flash freeze
Good morning, New Jersey! Indeed, our "winter" storm has played out pretty well according to schedule so far, with wintry impacts ending up on the low side of estimates. Top snow total in the state was 3.5 inches near Pellettown, Sussex County — that's healthy snowfall, but a clear bust for my overly ambitious snow forecast.
Of course, if you want big snow, you don't have to travel far. The village of Sidney in Delaware County, New York reported 10 inches of fresh snowfall overnight. That's only 75 miles northwest of New Jersey.
As I'm writing this, most of the state is still experiencing steady to heavy rain. There even have been some thunderstorms along the Jersey Shore! Warm air continues to surge, with South Jersey temperatures already in the 50s.
The exception is North Jersey, in the areas around Warren, Sussex, and Passaic counties. With temperatures still at or below the freezing mark, there is still some wintry mix going on there. I'm thinking residents north of I-80 are waking up to a very icy scene. Eventually, any residual freezing rain, sleet, and snow will flip to all rain by Sunday morning.
Let's run through the timetable for the rest of the storm, and the truly unpleasant weather impacts that are expected over the next 24 hours.
The End of the Rain
Model guidance shows our rain will taper off and exit the Garden State from west to east, between about 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. (For the record, the risk of one more "hit" of snow at the tail end of this storm system no longer exists.)
Until then, you may encounter the usual string of heavy rain concerns: Flooding and ponding, slick roads, and low visibility. There are numerous flood advisories, watches, and warnings posted across New Jersey.
Wind Kicks Up
This powerful storm is going to drag down some ridiculously cold air behind it. With that influx of arctic air comes a fierce northwesterly wind, kicking up after about Noon. Sustained 15 to 25 mph, with regular gusts over 40 mph.
The Big Cooldown
By midday Sunday, temperatures are expected to rise well into the 50s across most of the state — balmy! (And still wet, of course.)
And then, the aforementioned arctic wind will cause temperatures to plummet. 40s early afternoon. 30s late afternoon. Cold! (And becoming sunny.)
Most importantly, temperatures will fall below the magical freezing mark between 2 p.m. (North) and 5 p.m. (South).
All week, we've been telling you of the ominous flash freeze threat at the tail end of this storm. As thermometers nosedive, any puddles and wet surfaces are subject to completely ice over.
So will New Jersey turn into a 8,700 square mile ice skating rink? Will it look like a Mr. Freeze crime scene? Nah — the latest timeline I've laid out works in our favor.
We'll get about 2 to 5 hours of dry weather Sunday afternoon, before the freeze. In addition, wind is a great evaporator — so a lot of that water will turn to vapor and vanish into the atmosphere.
The combination of those two factors will help to lessen the severity of our flash freeze. But that doesn't mean it will go away — there will still be plenty of icy spots and frozen puddles around.
By Monday morning, thermometers across almost all of New Jersey will end up in the single digits. With a continuing bitter breeze, the wind chill ("feels like" temperature) could be as frigid as -5 to -20 degrees. Frigid!
And potentially dangerous. Let's remember what "wind chill" is — it measures the combined effect of cold and wind on animals. When it sinks below zero, it becomes downright dangerous. Hypothermia and frostbite become real concerns within just a half-hour.
So we'll be bundling up tightly Monday morning — heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarf, etc. To those who have the day off for the MLK Day holiday and can just stay in bed, I'm jealous.
I've gotten a lot of questions asking me to speculate about how icy Monday morning's commute will be. Will I be able to get out the front door? Will I be able to make it to work? Will my car start? Will my flight make it out OK? The answers to all of the above are probably yes. There will be icy spots. Road salt is completely ineffective when it's that frigid. The cold wind will be painful. But you're not going to freeze solid like Anna at the end of Disney's Frozen.
Coming Up This Week
High temperatures on Monday will struggle to make it to 20 degrees, with a wind chill no better than 5 through the afternoon. Tuesday's temperatures will range from teens in the morning to around 30 for a high. We'll finally climb above the freezing mark Wednesday afternoon, after spending 72+ hours in the deep freezer.
The reason for the Wednesday warmup? Our next storm system. For now, this one looks like a "mostly rain changing to a little bit of snow" event. But this setup has the makings of a coastal storm. That means 1.) the exact impacts are going to be highly track-dependent, and 2.) even if it doesn't snow it could still be nasty.
I'll be on your radio all day with rain, wind, and arctic chill updates. Stay safe and stay warm, friends!