Bad NJ Winter Weather Forecast Released: Polar Vortex May Return
New Jersey and Pennsylvania may be in for another polar vortex weather system that could send temperatures into the record books in late winter and early spring, forecasters say.
And you probably don’t need to be reminded of the bone-chilling nightmare that was the winter of 2013-2014, when record low temperatures extended well into March. It was cold everywhere, and on Jan. 7, 2014, the temperature in every state in the country dipped below 32 degrees, even in Hawaii, where it was 25 degrees. At least 33 deaths were blamed on the record cold.
AccuWeather meteorologist Dean DeVore said it looks like the area could get a one-two punch from a couple of polar vortices.
“If you really delve deep into it there’s actually a couple of vortices,” DeVore told reporters. “One’s in the lower level of the atmosphere, one's in the higher levels. All of that — part and partial — looks like there’s a shift in one of the polar vortices that is expected to happen going into this winter.”
Polar vortices often mean colder temperatures in February and March. Though he expects some periods of extreme cold, DeVore thinks a bigger effect on winter weather will be the change from an El Niño to a mild La Niña system, which is occurring now and is expected to result in a colder, snowier winter, a departure from the last couple of years, he told told WWJ/CBS Detroit.
The prediction would match what was already forecasted by AccuWeather, which recently released its long-range forecast that predicts it will feel like an extended winter for New Jersey and Pennsylvania as cold and snowy conditions will likely stretch into spring 2017.
Frequent storms across the northeastern U.S. — particularly in the Northeast — this winter may lead to an above-normal season for snowfall.
"I think the Northeast is going to see more than just a few, maybe several, systems in the course of the season," AccuWeather Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said in a news release.
Unlike last season, in which most of winter's snowfall came from a few heavy-hitting storms, this winter will last into the early or middle part of spring and will feature frequent snow events.
AccuWeather said much of the accumulation will be in New Jersey, the Philadelphia metropolitan area and south of Washington, D.C. These areas will see a handful of changeover systems, where falling snow transitions to rain and sleet.
The Old Farmer's Almanac, meanwhile, has released its long-range weather predictions for the rest of 2016 and into 2017. If the publication's long-range forecast is accurate, we should expect above-normal temperatures this winter in the central part of the Atlantic Corridor region, which includes New Jersey.
What is a Polar Vortex?
Though the term was only popularized in recent years, polar vortices aren’t anything new. The National Weather Service explains that a polar vortex — a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles — always exists but weakens in the summers and strengthens in the winter.
“The term ‘vortex’ refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Pole,” the Weather Service explained. “Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream. This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States.”
Similar outbreaks of extreme cold were also reported in 1977, 1982, 1985 and 1989.
Protect Your Pipes
So, what should you do to get your home and car ready while it’s still relatively mild? Even if the polar vortex doesn’t bring brutally frigid weather, you should take some precautions because the weather will turn colder.
Make sure your plumbing pipes are protected. Pipes freeze under three common scenarios: quick temperature drops, poor insulation and thermostats that are set too low. Some suggestions from the American Red Cross, Popular Mechanics and American Home Shield:
- Check the insulation of pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and the attic, because they’re the most susceptible when temperatures plummet.
- Wrap pipes in heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables, but be sure they’re approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
- Use caulk or insulation to seal leaks that allow cold air to flow inside near plumbing pipes. Pay particular attention to leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and the pipes themselves.
- Disconnect hoses from each spigot on the outside of your house. Drain and store them.
- Use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This will reduce the chance the short span of pipe just inside the house will freeze.
- In extreme cold, you may be able prevent your pipes from freezing by allowing a trickle of warm water to drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Leave your thermostat at the same temperature, day and night. Your routine may be to turn the heat down when you go to bed, but when the temperature plummets, which often occurs overnight, your pipes could freeze. Better to have a higher heating bill than costly repairs necessary when pipes freeze and burst.
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Another idea is to turn off the main water valve before you leave home, even if you’re going to be gone only for a weekend.
Furnace Been Checked Lately?
With the house sealed up, you’ll also want to check these items off your list:
- Make sure your furnace has been serviced to ensure it is running efficiently and safely.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector and water heater, especially since they could be running on overdrive in freezing temperatures.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the chimney is cleaned and the chimney cap is in place.
What to Do During Power Outage
You should also gather some other items you may need in the case of a power outage — and don’t forget to talk through the emergency plan with your family:
- Have plenty of matches, candles and flashlights on hand in case the power goes out.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, make sure you have some cut firewood ready in case of an emergency.
- A few extra gallons of water.
- Non-perishable food items for you and your pets.
- Lots of blankets, sleeping bags and comforters.
- A battery-powered radio.
- Backup battery for your cell phone and computer
- A first-aid kit.
Dress for the Cold Regardless
Now, make sure your vehicle is ready to go for the cold months ahead. Here are some tips from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
- Have you located the windshield scraper and brush? Find them before you need them.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full during extreme cold situation, so you can stay warm if you become stranded.
- Dress for the extreme cold, even if you don’t think you’ll be out much.
Graphic courtesy of NOAACar Emergency Survival Kit Must-Haves
Put together a winter car survival kit for your vehicle. Be sure to include:
- Definitely include jumper cables, but you may want to include flares or reflective triangle as well.
- Flashlights and extra batteries.
- First-aid kit, including necessary medications, baby formula and diapers if you have a small child.
- Non-perishable food items such as canned food (don’t forget a can opener) and protein-rich foods like nuts and energy bars. If you travel with pets, make sure to include food for them, too.
- Water — at least a gallon of water per person a day for at least three days.
- Basic toolkit with pliers, wrench and screwdriver.
- Cat litter or sand for better tire traction.
- A shovel to dig out of snow.
- Extra gloves, hats, sturdy boots, jacket and extra change of clothes for the cold.
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- A car charger for your cellphone