Where did all the snow go?
That was the question of the day for many across South Jersey on Thursday as a storm brought a sampling of inclement weather to the region.
“It was snowing last night and, poof, all gone,” said Jessica Kline, 56, of Absecon. She was the only person on the Brigantine seawall Thursday morning, standing amid the whistling wind and pelting rain.
Snow was a bigger problem inland, where residents of Hammonton and Vineland dug out from 3 to 7 inches with another 1 to 2 inches forecast overnight. Nearly everyone else had blustery winds and slick, slushy roads to contend with. Heavy rain had returned to some areas closer to the coast Thursday night.
“This was a classic nor'easter,” said State Climatologist David Robinson. “It brought mixed precipitation across the state with widely varying totals depending on how long it snowed and how long it rained.”
Despite heavy accumulations in some areas, Robinson said precipitation turned to sleet and rain as the northeaster funneled milder air from over the ocean onto land. Had the storm’s path diverted just 50 miles, he said the area could’ve seen more snow — possibly a foot or more.
A second storm system is expected to drop about an inch of snow Friday night, with a third forecast to bring a wintry mix to the area Monday night.
But while this storm was milder than many anticipated, there are still dangers.
Atlantic City Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said he’s concerned about how the high winds and icy conditions could impact first responders.
“With everything being wet and the temperatures starting to drop, it’ll make the response to any kind of incident a little slower,” he said. “That’s not what we want with these kinds of winds; you get a fire and it really takes off a lot faster.”
Heavy winds were a major component of the storm, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a gale warning along much of the coast through this morning. Robinson said gusts as high as 46 and 53 mph were recorded in Cape May and Harvey Cedars, respectively.
Flooding was also a concern for many coastal communities, particularly as high tide approached Thursday evening.
“The water is up to the bulkheads and there are puddles in the road because the ground is still frozen and the water has nowhere to go,” said Little Egg Harbor Township police Lt. Troy Bezak.
As for the storm’s initial impact, Brooks said Thursday was relatively slow. Aside from minor flooding in low-lying areas around Albany and Fairmount avenues, the only other call was for a spectator observed standing on a jetty precariously close to rough surf. That person had already left by the time authorities reached the scene.
More than 1,700 Atlantic City Electric customers were without power for several hours Thursday near Corbin City due to heavy snow in the area.
The forecast for rain, snow, gusting winds and possible coastal flooding resulted in Gov. Chris Christie declaring a state of emergency, meaning all state offices were closed Thursday, with only essential employees reporting to work.
Northern and western parts of the state saw the heaviest accumulations, with 14 and 11.5 inches reported in Rockaway Township, Morris County, and Cherry Hill, respectively. Locally, Estell Manor and Vineland saw the most snow with about 7 inches reported. More than 2 inches were reported at Atlantic City International Airport, where a number of flights were canceled or delayed Thursday morning.
Much of that snow melted into a slushy mess that still proved treacherous as various police agencies advised motorists to drive cautiously.
State Police reported 205 accidents and 508 motorist aids in the areas it patrols, including the Atlantic City Expressway and Garden State Parkway — both of which enforced speed restrictions Thursday morning and afternoon.
Road crews across the region also raced to remove the slush before freezing temperatures returned Thursday night. Many areas saw temperatures increase from the northeaster’s warmer air, but that was not expected to last.
Cumberland County spokesman Keith Wasserman called the effort a “marathon challenge” that began Wednesday night and was expected to continue this morning. To get ready for this new push, some of the road crews were sent home earlier Thursday to get some rest in preparation for the job, he said.
Municipalities in Cumberland County with concerns about dwindling salt supplies caught a break when the weather changed over to rain, Wasserman said. That allowed them to forgo salting.
Robinson said this winter is approaching the top 10 snowiest of all time both statewide and in South Jersey. As of Wednesday, South Jersey had seen an average of 27 inches since early December. He estimated that the new storm added another 8 inches, bringing it within striking distance. At the top of the list was the winter of 2009-10, when 66.5 inches of snow fell across the region.
Weather models show that the season may be winding down, however. After next week’s system, Robinson said, the region is forecasted to luxuriate in above-average temperatures through the end of the month.
“It looks like the cold air will be shut off for a while,” he said. “This may be the last big hurrah.”
Staff writers Thomas Barlas, Anjalee Khemlani and Donna Weaver contributed to this report.
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