NJ’s next storm could be an icy mess

The essential

As our last Rainmaker storm system ends on Wednesday, we will enjoy a ridiculously hot day. Temperatures will be 20 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The cold air returns Wednesday evening, setting the stage for our next storm system complex arriving Thursday. But don’t call this one a “blizzard.” Although several inches of snow accumulation is becoming more likely for North Jersey, a warm blanket a mile above the ground poses an icing problem for most of the state. (And the south, we’ll end up with a spell of outright rain. The liquid kind.). The Friday morning ride will be the one to watch for slippery spots.

The latest forecast for the icy mess ahead in New Jersey Thursday night through Friday, starting Wednesday morning. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
The latest forecast for the icy mess ahead in New Jersey Thursday night through Friday, starting Wednesday morning. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)

Near record heat: Wednesday

We start the day with temperatures close to 60 degrees. That would be typical in June, not February! (Keep in mind that normal lows at this point in the year are still in the 20s.)

We will maintain warm temperatures all day, so you may be able to leave the jacket at home. (Personal preference, of course.) High temperatures will hit 65-70 degrees this afternoon. 20 degrees above normal. And close to the records of February 23. (Records are 68 at EWR, 74 at TTN, 72 at ACY.)

On the weather side, the roads are wet with many puddles due to the rain on Tuesday evening. And we’re not done with the raindrops yet – I have to give the scattered rain showers a chance in the forecast until noon. Then significant bursts of sunshine will take over this afternoon. With a strong breeze, from the west-southwest, gusting to 30 mph.

Returns of cold air: Wednesday evening

Mother Nature brings us back to reality with the arrival of a cold front late Wednesday. His arrival will be dry. But a northwesterly wind will pick up, sending temperatures plummeting.

For most of New Jersey, I expect this cooldown to trigger at or after sunset. We would therefore call Wednesday’s temperature trend “daytime” – the high temperature will be mid-afternoon where it belongs. The only exception is northwestern New Jersey, where thermometers can start falling around 2 or 3 p.m.

By Thursday morning, temperatures will be below zero across most of New Jersey. (Away from the immediate coast.) We go averaging 20s higher.

Winter Mess: Thursday to Friday

For several days, we have been warning that our weather could become wintery, freezing and messy from Thursday to Friday. And this prediction is still true. With 36 to 48 hours before the storms peak, it’s time to take this one seriously. And it’s time to start composing safer details.

-Aperitif… A first wave of energy will pass just south of New Jersey during the day Thursday. A few showers could cut through southern NJ. And with high temperatures barely above freezing in the mid-30s, those downpours could produce a mild wintry mix. I’m not too concerned about buildups or travel issues during the day on Thursday. Just be aware that it may not be a “pleasant” day.

—Time of the storm… The “main event” of this storm system will pass west to east across New Jersey between about 8 p.m. Thursday night and noon Friday. The shock or peak of the storm will occur during the overnight hours, leading into the Friday morning ride. And then things will wrap up Friday noon, with clear skies and a stiff breeze throughout the day.

—Snow accumulations… Limit. Northern New Jersey will be cold enough for a “mostly snow” scenario. With abundant moisture in play, a buildup of 3 to 6 inches looks like a good possibility, especially along and north of the Interstate 80 corridor. North of I-195, there could be an initial buildup snow and sleet but will quickly turn to sleet, ice and puddles Friday morning.

— Ice build-up… Here is the real challenge for most of the state. Across the state, away from the coast, there could be icing due to sleet and freezing rain. I think my forecast map gives a good representation of how things are going to play out with respect to the potential for ice accretion. The “purple” and “dark blue” areas are of particular concern for slippery conditions.

—Impact… It’s always heartbreaking when a winter storm directly impacts a rush hour. In this case, the Friday morning commute is of particular concern, especially in the northern half of the state. Even though snow and ice accumulations will fall into the “moderate impact” category, it’s enough to trigger perilous journeys and huge headaches.

-Trust… It should be noted that the models show colder air and heavier snowfall just north of New Jersey. I factored that into my snow forecast. But if the models have an overall trend of a few degrees colder, our forecast impact map could change quite dramatically. Temperatures dictate the type of precipitation. And the type of precipitation (and intensity and duration) dictates the accumulations. This is why winter weather forecasting is so difficult: the difference between 31, 32 and 33 degrees can make all the difference in cases like this.

—Winter storm watch… In anticipation of snow/ice potential, the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for Warren, Sussex, West Passaic and West Bergen counties Thursday evening through Friday afternoon.

A winter storm watch was issued for far northern New Jersey from Thursday evening through Friday. (Townsquare Media / AerisWeather)
A winter storm watch was issued for far northern New Jersey from Thursday evening through Friday. (Townsquare Media / AerisWeather)

Weather Whiplash: The long term forecast

Our weather is calming down late Friday, with clear skies and a stiff breeze. High temperatures will range from the mid-30s in the north to the mid-40s in the south.

Saturday promises to be unusually cold for the season, with high temperatures close to freezing. It will be dry, with a mix of clouds and sunshine overhead.

Sunday will be the hottest day of the weekend, with highs in the 40s. There will also be two opportunities for a stray rain/snow shower on Sunday: a passing storm system south of NJ and a frontal boundary pushing from the northwest.

We are back to freezing weather on Monday. We can end February with a “freezer” day, with high temperatures of only around 30 degrees. A brisk wind would also keep wind chills bitter.

And after?

I may or may not prepare a full update on Wednesday afternoon, as the Thursday-Friday storm is better targeted. I will post on social media and issue an app alert if there is any important information to add, around 5 p.m.

I will definitely have another weather blog update on Thursday morning, which will be posted at 7am.

Until then, enjoy the sun and the heat while it lasts!

NJ WEATHER CENTER: Your forecast for 5 days and more

Dan Zarrow is chief meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook Where Twitter for the latest real-time weather forecasts and updates.

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