While the first and last few days of the month came in disguised as a lamb, March 2018 was a roaring lion on many occasions. Three nor’easters pounded New Jersey, with a fourth grazing the state, turning more of its wrath on southeastern New England. In true nor’easter fashion, the storms brought minor to moderate coastal flooding, significant beach erosion, powerful winds, heavy rain, and record- to near-record-breaking snowfall. This led to two of the larger power outages since Sandy in 2012, numerous traffic accidents, significant tree damage, frequent school closings, and even someone being injured by lightning during a snowstorm.
Rain and melted snow amounted to 4.66” statewide. This was 0.55” above the 1981–2010 average. It was the 37th wettest March since 1895 and wettest since 2011. Along with the wet February, this washed away any early- to mid-winter drought concerns.
March snowfall averaged 16.6” across NJ. This was 12.3” above average and ranked as the 4th snowiest March on record (Table 1). The northern division (Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex, Hudson) totaled 26.4” (+20.2”). This is a March record, surpassing the previous top mark of 25.6” in 1916. This region saw four CoCoRaHS locations smothered with more than 40.0” for the month. This included a March statewide record 44.3” at Jefferson Township (Morris County). This surpasses the previous record of 43.0” at Canistear Reservoir (Sussex) in 1958. The central region (Union, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Somerset) saw 17.4” (+12.4”) for the 4th snowiest March, missing the 21.4” record in 1956. The south (Burlington, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem, Camden, Gloucester, Ocean, Cape May) received 10.9” (+7.9”), ranking 9th, well behind the 25.8” in 1914.
|Rank||Year||March Avg. Snowfall|
Table 1. The eleven snowiest Marches across NJ since 1895.
While March temperatures were not exceptionally cold, with the exceptions of the aforementioned early- and late-month days, they were persistently on the cool side of normal. The 38.0° average was 2.8° below the 1981–2010 mean (1.4° below the 1895–present mean). This tied for the 46th coolest and was the coldest since 2015. For the second consecutive year and only the 4th time on record, the March statewide average temperature was colder than the previous February’s average. This rare occurrence this year and last was primarily the product of the two mildest Februarys on record more so than cool March conditions. The prior two occurrences in 1960 and 1984 were mainly due to, respectively, the 2nd and 11th coldest Marches on record.
Precipitation and Storms
There were four storms of note in March, three of them depositing more than 10.0” of snow and 2.50” of rain or melted snow somewhere in the state, with the fourth coming in with over 5.0” of snow and 0.50” of liquid. Ocean and Monmouth counties received the most precipitation, led by Lacey Township (Ocean) with 8.56” or rain and melted snow. Next in line was Eatontown (Monmouth) at 7.41”, Howell (Monmouth) 7.25”, Manchester Township (Ocean) 7.23”, Belmar (Monmouth) 7.22”, Ocean Township (Monmouth) 7.11”, and Lakewood (Ocean) 7.07”. While still rather ample, the least precipitation fell toward the northwest, with just 4.01” in Washington (Warren), two Blairstown (Warren) locations at 4.05” and 4.26”, Oxford Township (Warren) 4.06”, Roxbury Township (Morris) 4.20”, and Hackettstown (Warren) 4.37”.
In addition to the record 44.3” March record snowfall in Jefferson Township, two stations in Rockaway Township (Morris) caught 43.9” and 36.7”, two Mine Hill Township (Morris) sites had 42.8” and 40.9” accumulate, two Randolph Township (Morris) observers measured 42.1” and 37.9”, Oakland (Bergen) received 38.0”, West Milford (Passaic) 37.7”, and Hardyston (Sussex) 37.3”. The multiple-inch differences within several of these communities are quite reasonable given the frequent elevation dependence of the accumulating snow and the band-like patterns of the falling snow. The far south received the least snow during the month, with Wildwood Crest (Cape May) only catching 0.8”, Sea Isle City (Cape May) 3.5”, Middle Township (Cape May) 4.0”, Galloway (Atlantic) 5.0”, and Salem (Salem) 7.4”.
The first nor’easter commenced on the evening of the 1st, with light rain falling across NJ. Rain became heavy early on the 2nd and as temperatures fell, precipitation turned to snow in the north, and eventually to a mix of rain, sleet, and snow in central and southern locations. Precipitation ran as high as 3.12” at Stockton (Hunterdon), 3.00” in Palisades Park (Bergen), Ocean Township (Monmouth) 2.97”, Howell 2.89”, and Montague (Sussex) 2.81”. Some 79 CoCoRaHS stations had 2.00”–2.99”, with 122 coming in between 1.00”–1.99”. The least precipitation fell in the far south, with 0.73” at Sea Isle City and Middle Township, and only five other stations between 0.79”–0.99”. The heaviest snowfall was confined to the higher elevations, with top totals in counties where 6.0” or more fell led by 16.5” in Branchville (Sussex), Green Pond (Morris) 11.8”, West Milford 8.3”, and Allamuchy (Warren) 6.0”.
Without question, the 2nd was one of the windiest days since Sandy. Gusts topped 50 mph at 12 NJWxNet stations and reached 40–49 mph at 20 other stations. Harvey Cedars (Ocean) led the way with a 62 mph gust, followed by Fortescue (Cumberland) 60 mph, Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) and Seaside Heights (Ocean) each at 58 mph, West Cape May (Cape May) 57 mph, Pennsauken (Camden) and High Point Monument (Sussex) each at 56 mph, Mullica (Atlantic) 54 mph, Sea Girt (Monmouth) 53 mph, Logan Township (Gloucester) 52 mph, and Woodbine (Cape May) and Columbus (Burlington) each at 51 mph. The wind abated some on the 3rd, but gusts to 45 mph were recorded at Harvey Cedars, Seaside Heights, and Fortescue, with seven other locations gusting from 40–43 mph.
In addition to minor to moderate coastal flooding and beach erosion, the wind felled trees and power lines, leading to as many as 175,000 customers losing power for short or multi-day periods. In fact, some failed to have power return prior to the next debilitating storm.
This next storm was a 24-hour event, beginning during the late evening of the 6th. As with the previous storm, it began as rain before mixing with snow by dawn in northern and central regions. The pace of the precipitation picked up during the afternoon and evening, with 2” or greater per hour snowfall rates at times in a number of locations. Sleet also mixed in at times in some areas and the early afternoon saw rather widespread reports of lightning and thunder across central and southern areas, resulting in the aforementioned individual being struck and injured. Rain and melted snow totaled as much as 2.84” in Madison (Morris), four Franklin Township (Somerset) locations reported between 2.40”–2.65”, Moorestown (Burlington) 2.56”, and Galloway 2.51”. Some 48 CoCoRaHS stations saw 2.00”–2.84” and 112 from 1.00”–1.99”.
Eleven counties had one or more stations buried under 10.0” or more snow (Table 2), with seven other counties with reports from 5.0” –9.9” (Figure 1). Montville (Morris) was the “winner” with 26.8” of the white stuff, followed by 26.0” in Oakland. The deepest snow fell at higher elevations within the Highlands, with 10.0” snows extending south into northern Burlington County. There was a rather sharp cutoff in snowfall into the eastern part of NJ, with coastal areas receiving less than 2.0”.
Considerable tree damage, the worst since Sandy, though not of that magnitude in most areas, occurred where about 5.0” or more of the heavy, wet snow fell. This contributed to close to 337,000 customers losing power, a number that approaches 10% of NJ customers. Winds gusted over 40 mph along the coast, contributing to minor to moderate flooding and beach erosion but not greatly to power outages. The 7th brought gusts of 47 mph to Sea Girt and Seaside Heights and 46 mph to Atlantic City Marina.
Table 2. Largest snowfall in the eleven NJ counties where totals on March 6–7 equaled or exceeded 10.0”.
Figure 1. Snowfall totals for March 6–7.
The third nor’easter of the month was by far the weakest of the four to impact NJ. It arrived during the late afternoon of the 12th and lasted into the middle of the 13th. It was mainly a light rain and snow event that brought as much as 0.57” to Lacey Township, Stafford Township (Ocean) 0.54”, Franklin (Sussex) 0.53”, and Long Branch (Monmouth) 0.52”. Portions of the Highlands received more than 4.0” of snow, including Highland Lakes with 7.5” and Green Pond 5.4”. The remainder of central and northern NJ received mainly 1.0”–3.0”, except for an area in and around Monmouth Country that caught 2.0”–4.0”, with Freehold (Monmouth), at 4.7”, highest in this region. There was some minor coastal flooding and beach erosion, with winds gusting over 40 mph from the 12th to the 14th. Seaside Heights peaked at 45 mph on the 12th, along with Atlantic City Marina 41 mph and Harvey Cedars 40 mph. Fortescue reached 40 mph on the 13th and Atlantic City Mariana topped at 46 mph, Fortescue 45 mph, and six stations from 40–44 mph on the 14th.
The final March nor’easter arrived on the morning of the 20th with a mix of rain, sleet, and snow falling mainly in the southern half of the state as spring began shortly after noon. Moderate precipitation fell through the afternoon in the south with some sleet making it into central areas. The next round of this event included snow overnight through the morning of the 21st, mainly in western portions of the state. There was also a light accumulation of freezing rain in the southwest. Round three saw heavier snowfall in the afternoon and especially in the evening over toward the coast, tapering off early on the 22nd. This all led to some hefty precipitation totals (rain and melted snow/sleet) that reached 2.99” in Lacey Township, Belmar 2.61”, Manchester Township 2.31”, Medford (Burlington) 2.20”, Pennsville (Salem) 2.10”, Stafford Township 2.03”, Ocean Township (Monmouth) 2.02”, and 79 CoCoRaHS stations between 1.00”–1.99”.
Areas from Camden and Burlington counties northward mainly received 8”–12” of snow, except less than 4” fell in the far northwest (Figure 2). Ten counties had one of more location equal or exceed 10.0” (Table 3), led by Lacey Township with 15.0” and Stockton with 14.1”.
Figure 2. Snowfall totals for March 20–22.
|Morris||Green Pond & Mine Hill||12.0”|
Table 3. Largest snowfall in the ten NJ counties where totals on March 20–22 equaled or exceeded 10.0”.
Winds howled in this storm, with minor to moderate coastal flooding and beach erosion again plaguing the state. Gusts reached 47 mph at Atlantic City Marina on the 20th, with Fortescue to 42 mph, West Cape May 41 mph, and Harvey Cedars 40 mph. The 21st brought gusts to 48 mph in Harvey Cedars, Seaside Heights 46 mph, Atlantic City Marina 44 mph, and Sea Girt 42 mph. It was the cumulative effect of all of this month’s storms that sorely impacted Jersey beaches.
In addition to the eight previously-mentioned days with wind gusts of 40 mph or higher somewhere in the state, eight other days at that magnitude were scattered elsewhere throughout the month. This included High Point Monument (HPM) reaching 48 mph on the 4th, Fortescue and HPM each 43 mph on the 15th, and HPM 48 mph, Fortescue 42 mph, and Pennsauken 40 mph on 16th. HPM guested to 41 mph on the 17th, 43 mph on the 22nd, and 42 mph on the 23rd, with Mullica 45 mph, HPM 43 mph, Upper Deerfield (Cumberland) 43 mph, and Fortescue 42 mph on the 30th, and, finally, HPM 50 mph on the 31st. The lowest barometric pressure during the month was 29.30”–29.35” during the first nor’easter on the 2nd. The highest was close to 30.70” on the 26th.
There were 16 March days when the maximum temperature reached at least 50° somewhere in NJ. On the other hand, there were 12 days where some locations had minimum temperatures in the teens. Seven days had both a high exceeding 50° and a low in the teens, though only Pequest (Warren; 50°–17°) and Walpack (Sussex; 50°–16) saw these marks achieved at the same location on the same day (the 26th). Until the last few days of the month it appeared as if the 1st would be the warmest day. Hawthorne (Passaic), Stewartsville (Warren), and Wayne (Passaic) each reached 62°, with 19 NJWxNet stations at 60°–61°. Highs in the low 50°s were achieved at multiple locations on the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 11th, 17th, and 18th. The 19th found Fortescue and Vineland (Cumberland) up to 57° and Dennis Township (Cape May) and Greenwich (Cumberland) at 55°. Highs in the low 50°s were again reached on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 26th, and Howell got to 55° on the 28th. Mild air poured into southern NJ on the 29th, with West Deptford (Gloucester) surging to 76°, Sewell (Gloucester) 75°, and 13 stations between 70°–74°. Meanwhile, cool air held on in the north, with High Point (Sussex) and High Point Monument only reaching 47° and 28 NJWxNet locations from 48°–58°. A similar situation occurred on the 30th, with Vineland up to 74°, four stations at 73°, and 29 locations from 70°–72°, while 16 other sites only got to 51°–59°. Hillsborough (Somerset) and Red Lion (Burlington) rose to 61° and six stations hit 60° on the 31st.
Daily minimum temperatures fell to 14°–16° somewhere in the state on seven March days. Walpack reached 16° and Pequest 17° on the 6th. Kingwood (Hunterdon) recorded the state’s monthly minimum of 14° on the 11th, with Vineland and Berkeley Township (Ocean) at 19°. HPM was 16° on the 17th and HPM 15°, High Point 16°, Berkeley Township 17°, and Wantage 19° on the 18th. Walpack was 16°, HPM 17°, and High Point 18° on the 20th. Walpack was again down to 16°, Pequest 17°, and Hopewell Township (Mercer) 19° on the 26th.
To demonstrate the consistency of the cool temperatures during much of the month, the New Brunswick (Middlesex) National Weather Service Cooperative Observing Station went 20 consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 50° or lower (3rd–22nd). This is the second longest such March streak at this location since 1896, the longest being the first 24 days of the month in 1916 (the end of a 52-day run and also during the 6th snowiest NJ March).