By Meteorologist John Cifelli
A wild three days of weather in New Jersey has arrived, beginning today with what can relatively be called a scorcher. Compared to both the seasonal average (low 50’s) and the cold snap last week, temperatures in the upper 60’s and some isolated 70’s in places today will have some reaching for shades and sunscreen. Not so fast, I am afraid.
The low pressure responsible for the warm front surging north and the rainfall earlier today is passing to our north and west tonight, and cooler air will gradually sag south across the Great Lakes towards the mid-Atlantic tomorrow. It’s important to recognize the descriptor there- “cooler” air. Over the last five or six days, while we were dealing with an Arctic intrusion in our part of the country, the jet stream was angled off of the Pacific Ocean towards the west coast, flooding much of the nation with moderate maritime air. Currently the only real cold air is pocketed in the northern Plains, and there is no mechanism to force this cold further into the lower 48. For those not interested in a White Thanksgiving, this element to the setup is your blessing.
While today’s storm moves past the Great Lakes and into Canada, the next system will develop over the deep South. The cooler air will increase the temperature gradient along a developing frontal boundary along the coastal plain, which will lay the train tracks that the developing storm will follow on Wednesday. Overnight Tuesday, the storm will eject from the Gulf of Mexico and climb the eastern seaboard, bringing copious moisture with it. But Tuesday night in NJ, temperatures will be in the low 40’s and upper 30’s- the stage is not ideally set for a November snowstorm. Precipitation begins as rain Wednesday around day break, beginning along the southern coast before gradually progressing inland. Rain will transition to snow throughout the day on Wednesday from northwest to southeast. I do believe that everyone will see snow, while accumulations will obviously depend on timing of the changeover. Snow will linger into the early evening before tapering to occasional flurries overnight as the associated upper level low passes by our state.
So, by the time the most significant accumulation ends and Thursday begins, there will be about 12 hours for crews to address the roads. I don’t expect snow totals to be enough to cause significant travel issues on Thanksgiving. Traveling Wednesday and Wednesday night is another story. So my recommendation is to hold off travel until Thursday morning if possible, at this point. Thanksgiving Day will be seasonably cold with a few stray flurries.
Snowfall totals should be a general 1-3″ along the major arteries- Turnpike, Parkway, Expressway, 287. There is a higher likelihood of more significant snowfall accumulations, 3-6″ or so, as you move north and west of Philly and New York into the higher elevations. The jackpot zone is likely to be focused into Sussex, western Passaic, and northeastward into New York state well north of the city. I’ll have my first official snow-map and accumulation forecast this evening. There’s still plenty of time for things to shift one way or the other. Given the marginal air mass before the storm arrives and the warm ocean temperatures, this storm will be very track and intensity dependent, where small changes in either could be the difference between a slushy inch on unpaved surfaces, and several inches of wet, sloppy snow. Stay tuned.