Winter Storm Warning: NJ to start December with ice, rain, and snow
From ice to rain to snow. The 36 to 48 hour period from Sunday morning through Monday night is going to get messy and wintry. But this is a very complicated forecast, as different corners of the Garden State will experience very different weather conditions for both Sunday and Monday.
This storm deserves extra attention for three big reasons:
1.) Sunday is the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weather. A huge travel day, of course.
2.) It is our first true "winter storm" of the season. NJ's first accumulating snow since early March, in fact.
3.) North Jersey, at least, is facing some significant snowfall. And major travel issues as a result.
Here is our latest forecast map. Actually, maps — plural. Since I've been describing the three phases of this storm system, I split my forecast maps accordingly. Phase 1 & 2 will happen on Sunday. Phase 3 comes on Monday.
—Winter Storm Warning... 4am Sunday to 1am Tuesday... Morris, Sussex, and Warren counties.
—Winter Storm Watch... 8am Sunday to 8am Tuesday... western Bergen, and western Passaic counties.
—Winter Weather Advisory... 4am Sunday to 1am Tuesday... Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties.
—Winter Weather Advisory... 7am Sunday to 7pm Sunday (for now)... eastern Bergen, western Essex, eastern Passaic, and western Union counties.
—6 a.m. Sunday... Our storm system starts pushing in, spreading rain first to the southwest corner of New Jersey. Initial precipitation for most of the state will be an icy mix of sleet and freezing rain. (The exception is the warmer coastal and southernmost counties, which should be just plain rain for the duration on Sunday.)
—10 a.m. Sunday... First band of precipitation should have spread across all corners of New Jersey. Definitely slippery spots for western and northern New Jersey throughout the morning.
—1 p.m. Sunday... As temperatures warm into the lower 40s, most of the state will transition from icy mix to just plain rain in the afternoon. That rain will be heavy at times through the afternoon. If you haven't transitioned by this point (i.e. northwestern New Jersey), things may stay pretty icy for the duration. In fact, colder North Jersey will probably see some snow mixing in Sunday afternoon, with light accumulations possible.
—9 p.m. Sunday... As the center of the storm system moves over the Atlantic Ocean and begins to deepen (strengthen), we enter a relative lull on the drier backside of the storm. There will still be some light scattered showers around overnight — snow/sleet in NW NJ, rain closer to the coast.
—10 a.m. Monday... Centered over and fueled by the Atlantic Ocean, our storm system enters beast mode. Heavier bands of precipitation wrap around the storm and hit NJ from the north and northwest. That will be accompanied by colder air. A quick drop in temperatures will likely force most (if not all) of this grand finale precipitation to fall as snow. (The immediate coast may remain under rain for the duration.)
—2 p.m. Monday... Peak snowfall will be during the daytime hours on Monday. Periods of heavy snow may cause reduced visibility. Accumulations, particularly in North Jersey, will cause further travel issues. The evening commute will be messy statewide.
—2 a.m. Tuesday... As our storm system drifts out to sea, precipitation will finally taper off overnight.
—North Jersey (especially along and north of I-80)... This storm system looks quite wintry for you. Initial wintry mix (sleet and freezing rain) Sunday morning will likely lay down a glaze of ice. Some models even pump out over a tenth of an inch of ice accretion — watch your step! We should transition to mainly snow Sunday afternoon. A couple inches of snow accumulation are possible by Sunday night, especially on colder surfaces like grass, cars, and roofs. And then it's going to snow for most of Sunday, from mid-morning through the evening. 4 to 8 inches of snow accumulation is likely in this area. The plus on my map suggests that even higher totals are possible. (Some of my meteorological colleagues have suggested totals of 10 or even 12 inches here — not impossible, but I don't think such big snow is going to be widespread.)
—North-Central Jersey (from about I-80 to Route 1)... A quick hit of icy mix (mainly sleet) Sunday morning will be followed by rain, rain, rain Sunday afternoon. Then as snow moves back in on Monday, you will see some light to moderate accumulations. This "battle zone" is my biggest question mark of this forecast. Will the coldest air and heaviest snow bands make it this far south, driving snow accumulations closer to 6 inches? Or will dry air win out, limiting snow accumulations to just an inch or so? Either situation is possible, and we're going to continue adjusting this forecast as new data, information, and analysis is available.
—Central-Southwestern Jersey (Route 1, I-195, and I-295 corridors)... You'll also experience a brief period of icy mix (mainly freezing rain) Sunday morning, then a quick flip to rain Sunday afternoon. Some snow is likely in the third phase on Monday, but totals should be limited to an inch or two at the most. There could be some minor to moderate travel difficulties due to slush and poor visibility. But whether you see plowable or even shovelable snow is in doubt.
—The Jersey Shore... This ain't your storm. Phase 1 on Sunday morning will be mainly (if not totally) rain. Phase 2 on Sunday afternoon will be all rain, heavy at times. Phase 3 could get a bit trickier, as falling temperatures may allow at least a brief transition to snow. I've including up to an inch of accumulation for NJ's coastal counties, which would be mainly on colder surfaces like grass, cars, and roofs. You may find some minor traffic headaches due to slush and poor visibility.
—Worst travel times? Sunday morning is going to get sloppy. Whatever is falling from the sky — sleet, rain, snow, or all of the above — it's not going to be fun to drive in, especially given the higher-than-usual traffic volumes. Monday's weather and road conditions will rapidly go downhill too as snow falls and starts to stick, especially away from the coast.
—Is it a bread and milk storm? Not really — we reserve those urgent runs to the grocery store for the worst of the worst. Sure, over a half-foot of snow is likely for North Jersey. But will you get stranded in your home for days on end, with nothing to eat but french toast? Nah.
—Monday's school schedule? A tough call. A delayed opening on Monday would be pointless, as snowfall won't really ramp up until mid-to-late morning. Early dismissals are a possibility, to get kids home before the grown-up afternoon/evening rush hour begins. I could see all-out closures in North Jersey too, given the wintry forecast. As always, I recommend officials gather all available information and wait until the last possible minute to make these go/no-go decisions. Especially with such a complicated forecast, things can still change before the school bell rings on Monday.
—Work on Monday? Not all of us have the advantage of a snow day during bad weather, unfortunately. Because weather and roads will get snowier and slicker during the daytime hours on Monday, your evening commute will be the bad one. There could be some residual snow and ice for Tuesday morning's ride too.
—Coastal flooding? Probably the biggest impact for the Jersey Shore, with limited to no snow accumulation expected. Any time there is a strong system sitting off our coastline, we have to watch for tidal waters to rise. In this case, up to 1 foot of surge could cause minor flooding at the times of high tide. Biggest crest would be the midday Monday high tide cycle (Monday afternoon along back bays and tributaries). The latest guidance shows the threat for water inundation will be limited, but it's still something to watch closely.
Welcome to climatological winter! While not everyone in New Jersey will see big snow from this storm system, the timing is unfortunate as we transition from the Thanksgiving holiday back to work/school. Know that there will be periods of messy travel, stay alert to changing weather and road conditions, and when possible play it smart.
Of course, we'll continue to keep you updated before, during, and after the storm. Traffic and weather updates hit our airwaves every 15 minutes, every single day. (Even on holiday weekends, when we jingle bell rock!) Our web site, mobile app, and social media feeds will be helpful sources of instant information too.
Be smart and stay safe. Next weather blog will be posted on Sunday.