Another stormy evening for Southern NJ: Severe T-Storm Watch until 10 p.m.
Temperatures as warm as 87 degrees. Moderate humidity surging in. Sunshine cooking the atmosphere. And an approaching cold front.
Once again, we have a recipe brewing for severe thunderstorms Thursday afternoon and evening. But not necessarily for everyone in the Garden State. And this time around, the tornado risk is low - wind and rain are the primary risks.
The National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center have issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 10 p.m. Thursday for four counties in southern New Jersey: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem.
As you may know, a "watch" serves as a formal heads-up that the ingredients are coming together for dangerous weather. It's time to keep an eye on the sky for the next few hours.
Will everyone in the watch area see a severe thunderstorm? Nope. But if "warnings" are issued, that's when nasty weather is imminent and it's time to seek shelter.
Given model guidance and the usual "abundance of caution" placed on severe weather episodes, I am a little surprised the watch doesn't extend northward another tier of counties. The air is certainty unstable enough. Everyone in the southern half of NJ should be on alert for big boomers. (And the northern half of the state will see some showers and "little" boomers too.)
Over time, this storm forecast kept drifting later and later. And further south too. As of this writing (3:30 p.m.), there are no signs of convection or thunderstorms over New Jersey. Literally nothing on radar.
I think "prime time" - the period with the most widespread and strongest thunderstorms - will come between about 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday evening. Unfortunately, that coincides with the evening rush hour. (Which will be a busy one, as the holiday weekend begins.)
Residual raindrops should exit New Jersey through about Midnight, with drier, clearer, cooler conditions prevailing by Friday morning.
The Storm Impacts
--Wind... The biggest threat here. The strongest storm cells will be capable of producing wind gusts of 60 mph. That is enough to bring down trees, cause property damage, and obscure visibility.
--Rain... Heavy rain will come in bursts. It's a visibility and traction concern. But widespread flash flooding seems unlikely. (The air is not fully saturated.)
--Lightning... Given the heat in SW NJ, I think we are in for quite a light show with any thunderstorms that come to visit. Remember, by definition, every "thunderstorm" contains lightning. Therefore, by definition, every thunderstorm is potentially dangerous.
--Hail... Possible, but on the small side.
--Tornado... Not a huge concern this time around. The lack of a strong low-level jet (powerful winds about a mile overhead) limits the amount of low-level wind shear. That is an important ingredient for twisting, tornadic storms. I'm not saying a little spin-up is impossible. Just unlikely in this situation.
The Extended Forecast
Friday's forecast is tricky, as a few forecast models hang on to showers for at least the southern half of the state. All guidance points to mostly cloudy skies, breezy conditions, and cooler temperatures. No more 70s and 80s - we fall back into the seasonable upper 50s.
The Easter Weekend looks dry and increasingly pleasant. Saturday will be on the cool side, with partial sunshine and highs in the lower 50s. Easter Sunday will come closer to 60 degrees, with the return of blue skies and sunshine. Both mornings will be chilly, in the 30s, with a potential frost away from coastal and urban areas.
Next week will be a spectacular stretch of dry weather and warming temperatures. Other than a stray shower, I don't see any widespread rain until next weekend at the earliest. High temperatures will rise into the 60s for Monday and Tuesday, 70s for Wednesday and Thursday, and possibly 80s for Friday and Saturday.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.