Wintry weather for the start of the weekend

John Cifelli, Meteorologist | January 16, 2020 | Weather
  • Snow and sleet affects New Jersey on Saturday
  • Changes to rain by Saturday evening
  • Several days of Arctic cold to follow

A light to moderate accumulation of snow and sleet is on tap for Saturday as a surface low slides north of New Jersey, from the Great Lakes into southeastern Canada. Most of the frozen precipitation will fall during the day on Saturday, and by evening time any residual showers will be of the liquid variety.

As of Thursday afternoon, a cold front has swept across the state, ushering in a fresh Arctic air mass on blustery northwest winds. As the sun sets Thursday evening, temperatures will plummet into the teens and low 20s by day break. This cold will remain in place through Friday, anchored by a powerful 1045 mb high pressure center in southeastern Canada. Friday’s high temperatures will flirt with the freezing mark, but most of the state will stay below it even during the day.

The high pressure center slides southeast off the coast Friday night, and the return flow behind it, coupled with the circulation ahead of the approaching surface low, will turn winds southerly on Saturday. The storm track being well to the north is not typically supportive of winter weather, but the very cold air in place in advance will take a while to erode. The skies should be dry through the morning, but the race will be on between precipitation arriving from the west and above-freezing temperatures moving south to north. Most of the state should begin as snow before changing over to sleet and then rain, except the immediate coast and extreme southern New Jersey. By early afternoon, precipitation will have spread statewide. Snow will dominate the north, but a change to sleet and plain rain will occur for the southern half of the state by late afternoon.

By early evening the best atmospheric forcing is racing off to the north, and light rain and snow showers will end by 9 or 10 p.m. Only north and west of I-287 and north of Route 80 will remain snow or sleet for the duration of the event; everywhere sees a transition to drizzle by the end of the event. Overall at this point, expect a minor event if you’re south and east of the Turnpike, with more of a winter weather impact the farther north and west you go. Being on the southern side of the system’s precipitation shield, this only looks like a 6 to 10 hour period of precipitation.

Accumulations will range from a coating to 4 inches statewide, with a few locations perhaps reaching a bit more in extreme northwestern New Jersey. The weather story thereafter will shift from snow and sleet to cold temperatures, as another Arctic air mass takes hold over the mid-Atlantic in the wake of the Saturday storm. Once temperatures fall below freezing on Sunday, they won’t break above until Thursday at the earliest. Much of the state will dip through the teens and approach single digits for overnight lows several days next week as well. Another storm system looks possible for the following weekend.