10 things to know about Hurricane Jose’s impacts on NJ
Let's talk about numbers and details, the storm timeline, and the Fujiwhara effect.
Tropical Storm Jose formed halfway between Africa and the Caribbean the day after Labor Day. Since then, our advice has always been to "keep an eye on Jose," as the storm strengthened, made a loop-de-loop in the mid-Atlantic, weakened, and then strengthened again. Here we are almost two weeks later, and it's clear that Jose is prepared to make a close pass to the Jersey Shore. While our weather and surf impacts won't be as bad as if the storm were 150 to 200 miles further west, it's still very important to take this storm seriously — especially if you live along the Jersey Shore.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, Jose remains a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (a slight decrease overnight). The storm is centered about 450 miles south-southeast of Cape May, N.J. According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane-force winds (74+ mph) extend 60 miles from the storm's center. Tropical storm force winds (39 to 73 mph) exist for 205 miles from the center. Remember, the storm's center is expected to pass between 150 and 200 miles from the Jersey Shore. Too close for comfort.
In this blog post, my aim is to keep graphics and complicated explanations to a minimum, and just communicate what is expected to happen as Jose comes to visit.
Late Sunday, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the U.S. East Coast from Fenwick Island, Delaware to Nantucket, Massachusetts. This includes the entire Jersey Shore — specifically, Monmouth, Ocean, southeastern Burlington, Atlantic, and Cape May counties. A Tropical Storm Watch means tropical storm conditions are possible (but not guaranteed) within 36 to 48 hours.
If conditions warrant, the watch may be upgraded to a warning as hazardous weather becomes imminent.
Weather-wise, Monday will be fairly quiet — it's hard to resist calling it the calm before the storm. Clouds will thicken, it will be very humid, and a few stray showers will be possible. A stiff breeze will begin to pick up by Monday late afternoon.
Jose's first rain band may cross the Jersey Shore as early as Monday evening. Heavier rain will potentially arrive starting early Tuesday morning. The daytime hours on Tuesday look to be Jose's peak here in New Jersey. Rain and wind will begin to subside from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning.
The surf is already rough, and a High Risk of rip currents has been posted for Monday. Tuesday evening's high tide cycle is now expected to be the most precarious for coastal flooding.
Jose has been churning up the Atlantic Ocean for over a week now. So it's no surprise that rough surf is a sure bet along the entire Jersey Shore for the foreseeable future.
A reasonable forecast pegs wave heights in the 4 to 6 foot range, increasing to as high as 10 feet during the peak of the storm. Beaches will be battered, with moderate to major beach erosion likely.
A high risk of dangerous rip currents continues for the entire Jersey Shore.
5.) Coastal Flooding
The official definition of storm surge, according to the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology (emphasis mine): "A rise and onshore surge of seawater as the result primarily of the winds of a storm, and secondarily of the surface pressure drop near the storm center. The magnitude of the surge depends on the size, intensity, and movement of the storm; the shape of the coastline; nearshore underwater topography; and the state of the astronomical tides. The storm surge is responsible for most loss of life in tropical cyclones worldwide."
The official surge estimate for Jose falls in the 1 to 3 foot range. Also, Tuesday night's New Moon will raise the ambient tide level another 1/2-foot or so. That combination will probably be enough to push tide gauges just above Moderate flood stage at the times of high tide. That's enough to inundate low-lying roadways next to tidal waterways — a.k.a. the "usual" spots.
The first precarious high tide cycle will occur around 8 a.m. Tuesday. The greatest surge and highest water level is forecast during Tuesday evening's high tide (around 8 p.m.) Water will rise above the highest astronomical tide level for both of Wednesday's high tide cycles too — again around 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (These times are accurate for the Atlantic City oceanfront tide gauge. High tide generally occurs 2 to 3 hours later along back bays and tributaries.)
As I mentioned earlier New Jersey will find itself right on the edge of Jose's powerful and expansive wind field. As you might expect, the strongest winds will be felt along the eastern edge of New Jersey, which will be closer to the center of Jose.
Sustained winds will range from 15 to 30 mph, with gusts over 50 mph possible. Is this a tropical storm force wind? Only occasionally — that would require sustained winds at or above 39 mph. Is this a severe, damaging wind? Technically, no ‐ that's 58+ mph.
Jose's wind will be sufficient to down vulnerable trees and cause sporadic (not widespread) power outages. Driving and walking may be difficult at times, and umbrellas will be rendered useless. Your garbage cans and patio furniture may end up across town, if left unsecured.
Rain is still the most uncertain variable in Jose's forecast, as it is particularly sensitive to not only the position and size of the storm, but also the intensity and orientation of rain bands. There are significant differences among Monday morning's forecast models, with the NAM painting a very wet forecast and the GFS significantly drier.
I think it's prudent to still include the potential for 1 to 3 inches of rain, especially along the Jersey Shore. If it really pours, ponding on roadways and flash flooding of low-lying areas can't be ruled out.
Further inland, I wouldn't be surprised to see little to no rainfall.
8.) Jose is Not Alone
That's right, Jose is not the only active tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin right now. While Tropical Depression Lee appears doomed in the middle of nowhere, Hurricane Maria is going to strengthen into another monster storm. The incredibly active hurricane season continues.
Maria will crash into the Lesser Antilles on Monday, before intensifying into a Major Hurricane over the warm Caribbean Sea. Maria will have a serious impact on the same islands that were just smacked by Irma and Jose.
9.) Jose, Maria, and the Fujiwhara effect
Now, here's where things get interesting. As Maria turns slowly to the north, toward the Bahamas, its circulation will begin to interact with Jose — almost a thousand miles away! This complex "hurricane dance" is called The Fujiwhara Effect, also known as binary interaction.
I'm often asked at school talks what happens when two hurricanes collide. Do they become a super intense mega-hurricane?! No. They Fujiwhara.
If two storms become close enough (and that's still a big if), they could begin to rotate around each other. And draw closer to each other. Meanwhile, the stronger storm (Maria) could begin to envelop the weaker one (Jose). This presents an incredibly challenging forecast for the second half of the week.
At the moment, it appears Jose will stall and linger about 300 miles east of New Jersey. Maybe even start another loop-de-loop. The almighty European model even shows Jose slingshotting back toward the East Coast.
Do I buy it? Somewhat — the stall-linger-loop seems to have become the consensus storm track forecast. But the slingshot track? Seems doubtful to me. The loop maneuver will once again drain Jose significantly, and probably cause it to transition to a post-tropical storm system. That will leave it with little momentum for a return trip toward the Jersey Shore.
However, with a strong storm just off-shore, the rough surf and brisk wind may continue for several days past Tuesday. We're going to keep all options on the table, and reevaluate once the storm passes our shoreline.
10.) Final Thoughts
I've seen lots of comparisons between Jose and other storms. No, Jose's surge and wind won't be nearly as bad as Sandy's. No, Jose's rainfall won't be nearly as drenching as Irene's or Floyd's.
The best comparison to Jose's forecast surf and weather impacts is a strong wintertime nor'easter. (Aside, from the snow threat, of course.) Tuesday's weather is going to range from yucky to nasty. And the coast remains our chief concern, as water inundation may become a serious (albeit temporary) problem. We'll be holding our collective breath at high tide on Tuesday and Wednesday.
I first said it a few days ago, and I'll say it again... While not a direct hit, Hurricane Jose should still be taken very seriously.
My usual advice: Be smart, be safe.
Our weather, news, and traffic teams will continue to track Jose until the final raindrops fall, the final wind blows, and the final wave crashes ashore. Unless the forecast changes drastically or conditions go downhill unexpectedly, my next weather blog post is scheduled for Tuesday morning by 7 a.m.