Arctic blast arrives in NJ Wednesday: How cold and for how long?
Let's start off by sharing some final results of Tuesday's winter storm. Top snow total was 5 inches at Oxford, Warren County. Parts of Sussex and Morris counties also recorded over 4 inches of snow accumulation. Top rain totals were about four tenths of an inch.
Temperatures have fallen into the teens and 20s on this Wednesday morning. That has led to a flash freeze overnight — any wet surfaces and puddles from the earlier rainfall has frozen to solid ice. Watch your step! Front porches, steps, driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots may be treacherous. You might need to scrape your windshield. And untreated roads will be slippery too — use extra caution on curves, on-ramps, off-ramps, overpasses, and bridges.
Even though it's cold, our arctic blast actually isn't here yet! It will be a clear, cold, quiet start to the day. Temperatures will rise to the upper 20s to lower 30s around Wednesday midday. (South Jersey may barely pop above the freezing mark.)
You will notice our new frigid air mass around Wednesday early afternoon, as a westerly wind begins gusting over 40 mph. Not only will that add a big bite to the cold, it could cause minor damage and sporadic power outages, blow around garbage cans, and make driving high-profile vehicles difficult.
A Wind Advisory has been issued for the entire state:
--11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday... Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren.
--1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday... Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union.
As arctic air arrives, temperatures will rapidly drop through the 20s and teens Wednesday afternoon and evening. Make sure you dress for the cold, as temperatures will likely begin plummeting before you arrive home after work and school.
As if it's not going to feel wintry enough, models are showing a potentially hazardous snow squall passing through New Jersey Wednesday late afternoon. This quick burst of snow, combined with the wind, may suddenly reduce visibility to near-zero. We could also pickup a healthy coating of accumulation on the ground.
I don't use the phrase lightly or often — dangerous cold is expected Wednesday night through Thursday. My forecast calls for low temperatures between -4 and 6 degrees. That's what the thermometer says. When you factor in continued wind gusts, the wind chill is expected to dip into the negative teens (-10 to -20 degrees). Such arctic conditions can cause frostbite on exposed skin in just 30 minutes, and hypothermia will be a significant concern as well.
A Wind Chill Advisory is also posted for all 21 counties in New Jersey:
--7 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Thursday... Atlantic, western Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, western Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren.
--Midnight to 10 a.m. Thursday... eastern Bergen, Essex, Hudson, eastern Passaic, and Union.
I know my social media feed will be filled with "tough guys" insisting "it's winter" and "it's not that cold" and that we should "just suck it up". No. Just no. This is near-record cold, a full 20+ degrees below normal for late January. The combination of arctic cold and a fierce wind will pose a significant hazard to human health, if you don't protect yourself. Homeless and pets are especially at risk. Car troubles and water main breaks will be common during this cold snap. Everything from collecting garbage to delivering mail to fighting fires will be made much more difficult.
I looked up the climatology for Newark Airport. Since records began in 1931, we have seen the thermometer dip below 4 degrees 108 times — an average of 1.2 days per year. This is already the second day of 2019 that meets that criteria, and we still have a long winter ahead of us. (For the record, the all-time record low at EWR is -14 degrees, set on February 9, 1934. The last time we dipped below zero at Newark was in January 1994.)
Of course, we won't be nearly as frigid as the Upper Midwest. As of this writing, northern Minnesota is experiencing temperatures around -40 F/C and wind chills around -60. That's ridiculous!
All day Thursday, the wind chill will be stuck at or below zero. The thermometer will only rise into the upper teens. It will be bright and sunny, countered by a biting breeze gusting to 30 mph.
Low temperatures Thursday night are expected to range from 0 to 12 degrees. Another frigid night.
On Friday, the wind will finally lighten up, making the deep freeze slightly more comfortable for the first day of February. High temperatures will still only reach the lower to mid 20s. In addition, I've been mentioning a chance for a quick burst of snow in South Jersey Friday afternoon. I'm still dubious, as the very cold air will be very dry, limiting the development of any snow. However, as more models settle on that solution, it's worthwhile to throw out the possibility for about an inch of total snowfall between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday.
We'll finally warm up this weekend, thanks to a shift toward southwesterly winds. Most of New Jersey will bump above freezing on Saturday, with highs in the mid to upper 30s. (In case you're keeping score, by Saturday afternoon, we'll have spent about 84 consecutive hours below freezing.) Skies will be partly sunny and our weather will be dry.
Sunday gets even warmer, with highs in the mid to upper 40s — above-normal for early February. A batch of rain or wintry mix is forecast to clip northern New Jersey Sunday evening.
Warming temperatures for Monday (near 50) and Tuesday (near 60). Yes, we are less than a week away from the thermometer potentially hitting 60 degrees! Hopefully that optimistic thought will keep you warm, as New Jersey transforms into the North Pole for the rest of the week.
Watch your step, bundle up, stay warm, and be safe!