The National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Watches for coastal New Jersey and eastern Long Island this afternoon as a complicated winter storm approaches the region tomorrow night through Thursday. The exact track of this storm will have a major impact on the amount of snow that will impact the Northern Mid Atlantic, however, at this time, there is little doubt that snow will be falling along the coast with snow accumulations over 4″ thus the Winter Storm Watches being issued. This does not mean the rest of the region is out of harm’s way.
Well, this storm has a lot of similarities to the Boxer Day storm where the global models just were not handling the interaction of shortwaves very well. When I compare the shortwaves via the observations like satellite pictures and upper-level soundings, the overall solution to me gives more support with a complete phase of the two shortwaves diving towards the Mississippi River Valley this afternoon. If the complete phase happens as seen on the NAM, RGEM, SREF, and RPM; than the forecast above would be the result. If the phase is not complete and a piece of this storm is able to jump further east, then the whole precipitation shield ends up mostly off the coast and snowfall totals are cut in half.
In a case like this, I rather forecast higher rather than lower as to not put people in harm’s way. Images of people trapped on a highway in a blizzard do not sit well with me here. So I rather go high than try to be perfect, even though I would rather always be perfect with my forecasting.
Regardless of track, the wind impacts are a significant concern especially along the coast but even over the interior. Aside from windchills being in the single digits and teens at the height of the storm on Thursday morning, visibility is likely to fall below 2 miles. The strong winds at 20 to 40 mph sustained along the coast with gusts over 50 mph at times, will also support the potential for power outages and minor to moderate wind damage. There is a concern for coastal flooding and also a unique concern with the ice that has formed in many bays around the region. The strong winds and tidal action may drive large areas of ice into structures along the coast, which could be a problem for boats and other structural features.
The forecast for this storm is highly volatile and changes are likely. Over the next 24 hours, the forecast for this storm will hopefully come in line and a final forecast is expected by tomorrow afternoon as we watch the storm begin to form off the Southeast coast. My advice is to be prepared and hope for the best, which is an incomplete phase and a track to the east-northeast.