America is a mess right now. Well maybe I should say cold disorder. Arctic air has invaded everything but Florida and the desert of the Southwest. A powerful winter storm in the middle of the country has triggered warnings that extend from the Canadian border in Washington to the Mexican border in Texas. At least 33 of the 48 contiguous states have some type of winter advisory, watch or watch in effect on Saturday.
And that includes New Jersey, of course. As we’ve discussed all week, our next storm system is do not incredibly powerful or well organized. And it definitely won’t be a great snow generator for New Jersey. But it will reach a specific temperature profile conducive to an icy mix of sleet and freezing rain. And even a light layer of ice is enough to make conditions very slippery and treacherous.
We are also continuing to track two more storm systems that are targeting New Jersey next week. There have been some interesting developments in the latest models.
-Start… The winter mix precipitation will arrive from southwest to northeast between Saturday morning (10 AM) and afternoon (2 PM).
-Effort… The heaviest rainfall and the greatest threat to icy conditions will be from Saturday afternoon (3 PM) until sunset (10 PM).
-The end… Bad weather conditions should gradually improve on Sunday morning (6am to noon)
-Snow… Up to an inch possible (although unlikely), especially in the far north.
-Ice… About a tenth of an inch for most of the state. Less to the north and along the immediate coast.
-Rain… Up to 0.30 “of rain can fall, especially along the immediate shoreline.
Ice is a nasty business. Freezing rain in particular would be the worst case here. Remember, that looks, feels, smells, and tastes like normal liquid rain until it hits a sub-zero surface. It is then instantly frozen to solid ice. Instant skating rink.
In sleet and / or freezing rain, untreated surfaces will become very slippery very quickly, increasing the likelihood of vehicle accidents and slip and fall injuries. Vehicles encased in a layer of ice can be difficult even to enter. Heavy ice can knock down branches, trees, and power lines, increasing the risk of power outages on the weekend.
No matter what falls from the sky, it will be an inclement and unpleasant period of time. It is difficult to give advice on “safe” or “good” times to travel, as conditions can vary from city to city and even minute to minute. Really, if you don’t have to be out and about, it’s a good day to stay home and stay warm and dry.
The wind and coastal floods are do not concerns this weekend, I’m happy to say.
A winter weather advisory was issued for 17 New Jersey counties, due to the threat of freezing rain and ice this weekend.
—Saturday from 8 am to Sunday 7 am … Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties.
—1 pm on Saturday to 10 am on Sunday … Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties.
6.) The next storm
The same storm system that is sending dangerous chills and up to a foot of snow on the southern plains will arrive early next week. It looks like we may face a small piece of pioneering energy on Monday, ahead of the main event between Monday night and the first half of Tuesday.
Now here’s what’s interesting. The models have tracked the storm track further west (inland) and north. That not only limits the coastal influence of the storm, but also puts New Jersey on the warm side of the storm. That means the predominant type of precipitation now seems just rain.
I wouldn’t hang my hat on that forecast as things may go back to the cold side again. (Past testing has suggested both double-digit snowfall totals and a half-inch of ice accumulation in New Jersey.)
If anything, it is a sign that this forecast is still low confidence and quite complicated. Remember, chaos theory dictates that the weather forecast game works best when we take it one storm at a time. We’ll handle better next time once the weekend’s ice storm clears.
7.) The next next storm
The grand finale of this hyperactive weather period is still scheduled for late next week, in the Thursday through Friday time frame.
And guess what. Like Tuesday’s storm, it has a northwesterly trend and is therefore rainier. Even so, the current model consensus shows some snow accumulation at the beginning. And with 5 days until the first flakes / drops, it can definitely change again.
I am very hopeful that we will have a break from the constant onslaught of major storm systems starting next weekend. We might even see a brief (big) warm-up late next week. However, if you are looking for a sustained warming of longer duration, you will unfortunately have to wait until March.
Stay warm, be smart, and be safe this weekend. Unless “stuff” really hits fans when the ice storm hits, my next weather blog update is coming Sunday morning.
Dan Zarrow is chief meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter to get the latest real-time weather forecasts and updates.