NWS: Upcoming storm may generate “top 5” coastal flooding event

     Flood waters enveloped this neighborhood in the Strathmere section of Upper Township, New Jersey, in early October 2015. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

    Flood waters enveloped this neighborhood in the Strathmere section of Upper Township, New Jersey, in early October 2015. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

    Details about a potentially major winter storm for the first half of the weekend are slowly coming into focus, forecasters say.

    The “high impact winter weather threat” will begin impacting southern shore areas Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. 

    While precipitation amounts and types are still uncertain (shore areas may experience snow quickly changing to rain and then back to snow Saturday night), forecasters are concerned about strong onshore wind gusts and a full moon helping to trigger coastal flooding on Saturday.

    “High potential exists for widespread moderate to major coastal flooding,” the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, NJ writes in the Tuesday evening forecast discussion.

    The forecasters currently project anywhere from a 2 to 5 foot storm surge and 12 to 15 foot ocean waves during the Saturday morning high tide cycle, producing an “extensive” morning coastal flood threat.

    “Damage may occur in some areas as well as potentially severe beach erosion though not of Sandyesque portions in Monmouth and Ocean counties,” the forecast discussion advises. “For Atlantic County southward through Cape May County, we may run just a couple of inches shy of Sandy tide levels.” 

    But the forecasters say its too early to pinpoint the flooding impact, stating that a northeast wind gusting to near 50 knots within the immediate coast would create a “big problem.” 

    “We’re not yet saying this will happen, but we need to monitor that potential,” the forecasters write. “There is a long ways to go before this event occurs with the usual amount of advance uncertainty.”

    The National Weather Service says planning should be ongoing to mitigate the impact of “what ‘may’ be a top 5 coastal flood event in our record keeping, dating back through at least the 1940s.”

    Additionally, the National Weather Service forecasters will likely release the first snowfall forecasts for Saturday beginning tomorrow. 

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.