THURSDAY NIGHT: Turning breezy with rain much of the time, some of it heavy overnight. Low: 38
FRIDAY: Windy and turning colder with a soaking rain, mixing with and changing to snow. A coating to a few inches south, more towards the Poconos. Falling afternoon temperatures. High: 40
FRIDAY NIGHT: Snow showers in the evening; otherwise, mainly cloudy and still very windy. Low: 31
*FLOOD WATCH from late Thursday night through late Friday night: Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Camden, Hunterdon, and Mercer counties in New Jersey
*WINTER STORM WATCH from late Thursday night through Friday evening: Luzerne and Pike counties
*WINTER STORM WATCH from Friday morning through late Friday night: Carbon and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania and Sussex County in New Jersey
*HIGH WIND WARNING from late Friday morning through early Saturday morning: Berks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania and Camden, Gloucester, New Castle, and Salem counties in New Jersey
*HIGH WIND WATCH in effect from Friday morning through early Saturday morning: Bucks, Lehigh, and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Hunterdon, Mercer, and Warren counties in New Jersey
*HIGH WIND WATCH from Friday morning through Friday night: Lancaster, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties
March began rather quietly early Thursday, the calm before a strong early-March storm that will bring rain, wind, and some wet snow to Pennsylvania and New Jersey over the next 48 hours.
Clouds thickened the first half of Thursday, but they didn't prevent another mild day across the area, as temperatures climbed well into the 50s and even touched 60 degrees for some. While the morning was dry, rain overspread Pennsylvania from west to east as of early to mid-afternoon, and will continue to work its way east across the rest of the area through evening.
The rain is part one of a multi-faceted storm, actually a pair of storms, one now over the Ohio Valley and another that will develop east of New Jersey and take over the show. That ocean storm will rapidly intensify as it meanders and even loops south of New England, becoming a powerful storm that will deliver strong and potentially damaging wind gusts to much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for Friday and Saturday. Those winds will also drag down some colder air, just cold enough to change the rain over to wet snow on Friday as the offshore storm wraps up and throws back moisture into the cold air. The result will be a heavy, wet snow that will accumulate for some of us, but accumulations will be elevation-dependent, with higher elevations and areas farther north and east seeing the highest snow totals.
So, let's break down the possible impacts one at a time, starting with the rain. Rain will continue overnight Thursday, occasionally heavy at times, and continue into Friday. Flood watches are posted for the Lehigh Valley, Bucks and Montgomery counties, and then for a large part of central and northern New Jersey, where up to two inches of rain could cause some localized flooding. The ground is already very wet across these areas, given the 5 to 7 inches of rain that many of us saw through a rainy February, so some flooding is certainly possible. Farther south and west from the flood watch area, rainfall will still be substantial, but probably closer to one inch rather than two inches. Some poor drainage flooding can still result, but flooding will be less widespread than areas farther north and east.
Next are the high winds, with high-wind warnings in effect for most of the area for Friday into early Saturday. As our ocean storm cranks offshore, north to northwest winds will likewise crank, and may gust anywhere from 40 to 60 miles-per-hour anytime Friday and Friday night through early Saturday morning. Those high winds, coupled with the soft and wet ground due to the recent rain plus any wet snow that manages to accumulate, could combine to bring down some trees, tree branches, or power lines, and at least some power outages can be expected. Brisk winds will remain throughout the weekend, but the damaging wind gust threat should be over by Saturday and Sunday.
One of the biggest challenges of the forecast is the changeover to wet snow, both timing it and determines how much will accumulate. Given the warm ground and mild air that has been in place, this storm will have to manufacture its cold air and bring it down from above. Heavier bands of moisture will do that, but it's so hard to predict where those oftentimes narrow heavier bands will set up and how long they will persist. With our storm conducting a rare loop-de-loop off the coast, that too offers uncertainty as to how much moisture will wrap around our storm and where the brunt of that wrap around moisture will set up shop. All that being said, the Poconos, northeastern Pennsylvania, and northwestern New Jersey stand the best chances of seeing the most snow, with 6 inches or more of snow likely over the higher elevations. The snow will be elevation dependent, meaning the higher up you go, the more snow you will see and the more it will readily accumulate as the air will also be colder.
Farther south, toward the Lehigh Valley, Bucks and Montgomery counties, and central New Jersey, up to a few inches of wet snow may accumulate, more so on grass, trees, and cars, and less on roads as temperatures will likely be above freezing when the snow is falling. Farther south and west from there, a slushy coating is possible from Reading and Lancaster to Philadelphia and the rest of southern New Jersey. The exception is if any heavier bands from that wraparound moisture can persist for a few hours in any one spot, which could add a slushy inch or two in any location this happens. Any treated or well-traveled roads likely remain wet, unless you’re traveling points north towards the higher elevations where the snow will be heavier and temperatures colder. There, travel will be most slick and some roads could be snow-covered.
Along the shore, strong winds and large waves will batter the coast and lead to some tidal flooding Friday into Saturday. Beach erosion will also be a concern up and down the coast as well.
Some leftover snow showers and flurries Friday night will give way to some clearing by the weekend, with the blustery winds the only element of our storm lingering as the ocean low slowly exits stage right and out to sea. The weekend will be seasonably cool and certainly much cooler than we were through most of late February, with afternoon highs only in the mid 40s, which will feel colder when that brisk north-northwest breeze is factored in. Winds still may gust to 40 miles-per-hour on Saturday before diminishing a little further by Sunday, with the amount of sunshine increasing as the weekend progresses.
The cooler pattern should persist through next week as well with high temperatures remaining in the mid 40s, about average for early March. Another chance of rain or snow arrives by the middle of the week around Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Southeastern PA 69 News