The nor’easter that brought all the record snow this past weekend was a storm that not only surprised many residents across the Garden State as well as the rest of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, but also many forecasters as well. Some had underestimated the impact of the storm while others overestimated. It led to a lot of different possibilities depending upon what weather resource you were using.
I discovered this right away on Saturday. When I first get up in the morning, I usually turn to Weatherscan by the Weather Channel to see the latest radar and satellite imagery along with the current conditions. After hearing snowfall amounts of either one to three, or two to four inches all day on Friday, I was startled to find out that Newark was forecast to get 5 to 8 inches of snow. Belmar was expected to get one to two inches of rain, and Somerville was expected to get 6 to 10 inches.
Turning to the local news on WABC 7 out of New York City, I learned that the snow wasn’t really going to get underway until the evening, and snowfall amounts were again expected to be between one to three inches with higher amounts further north and west. Perplexed, I decided to go to the web site for the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly, New Jersey. There, I discovered that the forecast was calling for up to 4 inches on Saturday. The confusion didn’t stop there either.
Arriving at work a couple hours later, I watched the rain increase, and eventually turn into snow. The clouds grew very dark, and the snowfall picked up in intensity. However, the NWS offices in both Mount Holly and Upton, New York were not agreeing on the snow forecast. To understand this, you must recognize that the office in Mount Holly covers most of New Jersey as well as Eastern Pennsylvania while the Upton office covers Northeastern New Jersey as well as New York City and its suburbs.
Not a lot of people realize this when they see their forecast. However, at lunchtime on Saturday, the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly was still forecasting only 2 to 5 inches for South Plainfield, which resides in Northwestern Middlesex County some 5 minutes from the Union County border. A Winter Weather Advisory was in effect for my hometown. Meanwhile, in nearby Plainfield, located in Union County, a Winter Storm Warning was in effect, and the forecast was calling for 6 to 10 inches.
Within the next two hours, the Winter Storm Warning was extended into Middlesex County by NWS Mount Holly. Forecast snowfall amounts were increased from 2 to 4 inches to 4 to 8 inches. Northwestern Middlesex County was at the high end of the scale. At this point, the snowfall was producing very low visibility, and the slushy and slippery roads created difficult driving conditions. Tree limbs and power lines were snapping under the weight of the snow. After the forecast was updated, the snow began to mix with sleet in Northern Middlesex County locations such as Edison.
In the end, Mount Holly was more accurate with its original forecast. South Plainfield ended up with 3.1 inches, Edison ended up with 4 inches, and Woodbridge ended up with over 5 inches. Further north in Union County locations such as Elizabeth and Roselle Park, snowfall amounts were less than expected at 3.8 and 4.8 inches respectively. To the west in Somerset County, snowfall amounts ranged between 2.5 inches in Montgomery to 4.8 inches in Bridgewater.
Regardless of the final snowfall amounts, the storm still produced record snow. The problem with these forecasts is that depending upon where you are, the forecast for one location could differ greatly from another that is just minutes away. This is because New Jersey weather is governed by two NWS offices. Middlesex County was not always covered by Mount Holly. Upton did issue forecasts for the area prior to about 10 to 15 years ago. New Jersey has always struggled to have its own weather identity. Often, the Garden State’s forecasts are often blurred since it lies between Philadephia and New York City.
The NWS needs to do a better job of working together to forecast weather for counties neighboring the two forecast zones. In addition, with all the different media outlets having their own weather services, it can be very confusing with numerous forecasts to sift through. Best advice is to stick with one particular outlet for your info. I usually go with the NWS and the Weather Channel although, I will check out what the other stations will be saying.
Forget About White Christmas! How About A White Halloween!!
It has been a wild and crazy ride with the weather in New Jersey since September 2010. The latest chapter occurred over this past weekend when a nor’easter brought record snowfall to the Garden State as well as many other locations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States. The storm brought record snow and power outages to many locations in New Jersey.
Earlier in the week, there had been talk of possible snow in New Jersey. By Friday, that talk was becoming reality as a powerful coastal storm that had dumped snow in the Colorado Rockies earlier in the week, was coming up the coast. Forecasts originally called for either 1 to 3 inches, or 2 to 4 inches here in Northwestern Middlesex County as well as many locations in the easternmost counties of New Jersey.
However, areas farther west such as Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Hunterdon Counties were looking at 4 to 6 inches. Philadelphia was expected to get 3 to 5 inches while Allentown, Pennsylvania was looking at 6 to 10 inches. Getting out to a high school football game on Friday night, I didn’t get the feeling that there would be a lot of snow. Although I had dressed warmly, I didn’t wear any gloves, and it didn’t affect me since temperatures were comfortable with little wind.
Another thing that startled me about this storm was the fact that the pressure wasn’t that low. At the height of the storm, the barometer only dropped to 29.83 inches, or 1010 millibars, which is quite high for such a powerful storm. The pressure was only as low as a strong tropical depression, or minimal tropical storm. However, the low stayed just far enough offshore to bring in enough cold air to tap into plenty of moisture. Approximately one to two inches of rain fell along the Jersey Shore. Translate that to snowfall, we could have had 10 to 20 inches of snow.
Some locations across New Jersey did see a plentiful amount of snowfall. The winner was West Milford in Passaic County with 19 inches of snow. Marcella, New Jersey received 15.5 inches of the white stuff. Here in South Plainfield, there was only about 3 inches of snow while in nearby Edison, there was 4 inches of snow. Woodbridge had over 5 inches. The grand winner was Plainfield, Massachusetts in the western part of the state, which received just under 28 inches of snow. Parts of Connecticut received over 20 inches of snow.
It didn’t really matter how much snow any of these towns received. There were two reasons for that. First, there had only been three previous recorded instances of snow in the New York City area since the Civil War with the last occurrence being in 1952. The earliest significant snowfall in Northwestern Middlesex County was back in November 1989 when six inches of snow fell on the day after Thanksgiving. The highest recorded snowfall in New York City before Saturday was 0.8 inches. The second reason was because the snow was so wet and heavy that it had a devastating effect on trees and power lines.
Within the first hour of the snowfall, trees began snapping and falling in South Plainfield as well as other locations in New Jersey, especially as you got further north and west. With leaves still on the trees and the wet snow, tree branches and limbs gave way to the weight on them. Trees that didn’t break were bent to the extreme. The result was massive power outages. Power went out to many on the north side of town in South Plainfield around 1:30 PM in the afternoon. A total of 750,000 customers lost power in Connecticut while another 600,000 lost electricity in New Jersey. Southeastern New York had about 65,000 people without power.
Snow that made it to the ground combined with sleet in a lot of places to make the ground very slippery and slushy. The snowfall caught a lot of residents in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast unprepared. The combination of the wet and slushy snow along with 30 to 40 mile per hour winds, and cold temperatures that dropped at or below freezing made life miserable for many, who were surprised by the sight of snow in October. The intensity of the snowfall appeared to also have forecasters perplexed and confused.
Early in the morning, the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly was calling for 2 to 5 inches in Northwestern Middlesex County. Accu-Weather also called for about 2 to 4 inches. The National Weather Service Office in Upton, New York called for 5 to 8 inches in Newark, and 6 to 10 inches in Somerset County. Plainfield in Union County was under a Winter Storm Warning while South Plainfield in Middlesex County, just minutes away from the Union County border, was under a Winter Weather Advisory. Within six hours that would change as Middlesex County was blitzed by heavy snow after the changeover from rain occurred around 11:00 AM EDT.
In the end though, the Mount Holly office ended up more on the mark with its forecast than Upton did. However, having two NWS offices in the same geographic area giving such diverse forecasts for locations just five minutes apart was a bit disturbing. Power outages in South Plainfield left many homes and businesses in the dark along the Plainfield Avenue corridor from Maple Avenue northward. Electricity left those residents in the dark until just before sunrise on Monday morning. However, there were many other Jersey residents still without power well into the early part of this week. As of Wednesday, there were still 70,000 residents without power in New Jersey.
While much of the snow melted on Sunday, temperatures dropped to record levels on Monday morning to keep the snow on the ground a little longer, especially in areas north and west. Many Schools in Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties were closed. It was a memorable storm something that may be a once in a century occurrence. However, in a year of weather extremes for the Garden State, this storm was the norm, not the exception.
Saturday was a historic day for weather in the Garden State. The second nor’easter of the season produced record snowfall for the month of October in New Jersey as well as the rest of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. I had to work on Saturday, but did manage to take note of some key moments from this storm.
Saturday, October 29th
7:30 AM–Woke up to find conflicting forecasts. Accu-Weather calls for 2 to 4 inches while the National Weather Service is calling for 4 inches. The Weather Channel’s Weatherscan is calling for 5 to 8 inches in Newark, and 6 to 10 inches in Somerville.
8:30 AM–Head out to work, and it is raining steadily.
10:38 AM–Went outside to shoot some video of weather conditions at work in Edison, New Jersey. Rain coming down pretty hard.
11:33 AM–Took a look outside at work, and noticed that the rain has changed over to snow.
12:13 PM–Went outside to shoot video again, and the snow is coming down in earnest. Took a walk around the building, and the conditions are also very windy and cold. Co-workers are in disbelief that it is snowing.
12:26 PM–Came back inside to discover that the National Weather Service is calling for 6 to 10 inches of snow in Plainfield, but only 2 to 5 inches of snow in South Plainfield. Plainfield gets its forecast from NWS in Upton, New York while South Plainfield gets its forecast from NWS in Mount Holly. I live in South Plainfield, and am located some 5 minutes from Plainfield.
1:30 PM–Power goes out at my home in South Plainfield.
2:28 PM–National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly, New Jersey upgrades the Winter Weather Advisory to a Winter Storm Warning for Middlesex County. Northwestern Middlesex County is now expected to get up to 8 inches of snow.
2:56 PM–Went outside to shoot video again. The snow is still coming down very hard. It is building up on the trees, which are now wilting from the weight of the wet snow and leaves that haven’t fallen off yet.
4:12 PM–Went outside to shoot more video. The snow has transitioned over to sleet. The precipitation rate has lessened a bit.
7:15 PM–Getting ready to go home. Had to clear snow from my car. The ground is a slushy mess. There was plenty of heavy, wet snow on my car.
7:54 PM–Arrive at home to see that the power is still out. My mother and brother indicate that they heard trees snapping a lot during the first few hours of the storm. I also learn that New Jersey is under a state of emergency. Power is out to much of the town from Maple Avenue into Plainfield Avenue. Many homes and businesses are in the dark. Traffic lights are out, and no police are out directing traffic.
10:00 PM–Getting ready to go to bed. Power is still out.
Sunday, October 30th
3:00 AM–Wake up in the middle of the night. Power is still out. Very hungry and very cold. Had to put on my winter jacket and hat. My head feels very cold. Get an extra blanket, and also have an energy bar as well as some dark chocolate. Temperature in my room is 61 degrees. It is normally 78 to 83 degrees depending on the time of year.
6:30 AM–Wake up again to find that the power is back up. Power came back online at about 5:30 in the morning. Temperature drops to just above freezing for a low.
8:45 AM–Head out to work. There is a nice blend of colors with the white snow, fall foliage, blue sky and sun.
Here is time lapse video of weather conditions in South Plainfield, New Jersey on October 29, 2011. On this day, a memorable October Nor’easter brought rain and snow to the Garden State. It was record snowfall throughout Jersey including 4 inches in South Plainfield. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture all the footage from this day because we had a power outage, and the power supply on my web cam was lost.
Here is video footage of the October snowstorm that rocked the Northeast on October 29, 2011. The storm produced only 4 inches of snow in Edison and South Plainfield, New Jersey. However, it was still a record snowfall, and a memorable storm. Never thought that I would see significant snow in October.