A storm that dumps a large amount of snow on the ground is not necessarily a blizzard. So what is a blizzard, and what is the difference between a blizzard watch and warning?
As of the time this article is being written, Ocean County is under a blizzard watch. This means the forecast looks favorable for blizzard conditions in the next 24 to 72 hours. A blizzard warning (which, as of 1 p.m. Sunday, is not in effect) means blizzard conditions are probable within the following 12 to 36 hours.
So, what does the National Weather Service mean by “blizzard conditions?”
A blizzard is defined by the U.S. government’s weather forecasting agency as a storm that lasts three or more hours that contains:
- Sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater; and
- Considerable falling and/or blowing snow (i.e., reducing visibility frequently to less than 1/4 mile).
In the forthcoming storm in New Jersey, snow is forecast to fall between the late afternoon or evening hours Monday and Tuesday morning, certainly fulfilling the requirement that the storm lasts for three hours or more. Additionally, as the storm is a small “clipper” system that is forecast to develop into a nor’easter, winds from the ocean will be sustained at as much as 45 m.p.h or more during the storm, fulfilling the wind speed requirement.
As far as accumulations, currently the Shore area is forecast to receive between 10 and 18 inches of snow, though it may be a bit less, or a bit more, depending on the exact track of the storm. For comparative purposes, in the Dec. 26, 2010 storm, Brick Township received 34 inches of snow – more than is being predicted for the Jan. 26, 2015 storm.