Here comes Hurricane Michael: NJ to turn from summery to soaked
As of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a category 4 major hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. As The center of the storm is still over the open Gulf of Mexico, as of this writing, and is expected to make landfall just east of Panama City, Florida Wednesday afternoon. A foot of rain, a foot of storm surge, and destructive winds. Not good.
Michael will batter Florida, Alabama, and Georgia and then exit into the Atlantic Ocean around the Virginia-North Carolina border. Even though that point is well south of New Jersey, we are still expecting some tropical rains and gusty winds from Thursday through Friday morning.
For now, we get to enjoy one more summery day for Wednesday. We're waking up to temperatures around the 70-degree mark, with thick fog across central and southern New Jersey. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, and Somerset counties until 9 a.m. Visibilities should improve through the late morning hours.
Under partly sunny skies, it's going to be warm and very humid once again . Wednesday afternoon high temperatures are forecast to pea in the lower 80s for most. (Probably 70s in far NW NJ and along the Jersey Shore.)
We had a tiny downpour popup in Camden/Burlington counties Tuesday evening, thanks to our incredibly humid air mass. I supposed an isolated shower or thunderstorm is possible for late-day Wednesday too — although I've opted to keep my written and on-air forecast dry all day.
Clouds will increase Wednesday night, as we remain sticky. Low temperatures won't fall much below 70. A few showers may creep in between Midnight and daybreak Thursday morning.
And then Thursday, we get soaked. This isn't really a direct hit from Michael. Because of an approaching strong cold front, we already had steady rain in the forecast. Michael's deep tropical moisture will serve to enhance that rain — in other words, make it dramatically heavier.
So, we'll see periods of rain throughout the state throughout Thursday. Rainfall totals will probably end up in the 1 to 2 inch range for most of New Jersey. (Note: the latest NAM model pumps out an isolated 5" total along the south coast.) The heaviest rain will occur to the south and east. No matter where you live, this brand of tropical rain could easily lead to flash flooding concerns. The biggest threat (i.e. heaviest rain) is expected Thursday afternoon.
I've downgraded my wind forecast for Thursday to "breezy" — gusts could reach 25 mph, but the pressure gradient won't be intense enough (yet) to warrant stronger winds.
As the center of Michael passes about 175 miles south of New Jersey early Friday, winds will become "gusty". Gusts of 35 mph are just blow "tropical storm force". I wouldn't call that "destructive" by any means, but it certainly won't be pleasant.
The big residual question is still whether the outer rain bands of Michael itself will impact the Garden State Friday morning. I've kept wet weather in the forecast for far southern and coastal New Jersey through midday Friday, with the continued threat of heavy downpours too.
So again, NJ's biggest issue from Michael will be rain and inland flooding, not wind or surge/surf (although the ocean will be pretty angry through the weekend).
As Michael pushes out to sea, skies should clear to sunshine by Friday afternoon. In addition, we'll start to feel the effects of the aforementioned cold front late Friday. As much cooler and drier air arrives, temperatures will take a tumble. While thermometers will hover near 70 degrees to start Friday, we'll probably end up closer to 50 by Friday evening.
That sets us up for a big taste of autumn over the upcoming weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday will bring morning low temps in the 40s, and afternoon highs limited to the 60s. The first frost of the season is still a good possibility for the coldest spots in the state — higher elevations of NW NJ, and the middle of the Pine Barrens.
60s will be the rule for early next week too. Maybe some 50s mixed in, following another cold front in the Monday-Tuesday time frame.