Another Wet March
March 2011 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
April 4, 2011

While not coming close to the record wet March of last year, an average of 5.75" fell across the Garden State this March. This is 1.58" above normal and ranks as the 12th wettest since records commenced in 1895. The table below shows that five of the twelve wettest Marches have been observed since 1993. Include the 1980s and numbers rise to eight of twelve.

Rank Year March Prcp
1 2010 9.52"
2 1912 7.80"
3 1983 7.72"
4 1994 7.34"
5 1993 7.08"
6 1980 6.92"
7 1953 6.91"
8 1899 6.70"
9 1984 6.41"
10 2001 6.11"
11 1932 5.78"
12 2011 5.75"
13 1944 5.72"
14 1942 5.71"
15 1896 5.47"

The north Jersey Highlands received the most precipitation. Charlotteburg Reservoir (Passaic County) took top honors with 10.67", followed by Jefferson Township (Passaic) at 10.28", two stations in Oakland (Bergen) coming in with 10.12", Mine Hill (Morris) at 9.86", stations in Rockaway (Morris) with 9.68" and 9.47", and Little Falls (Passaic) with 9.47". Southern NJ had closer to average rainfall, with Lower Township (Cape May) the lowest at 3.83", Wildwood Crest (Cape May) 4.01", Sea Isle City (Cape May) 4.04", Woodbine (Cape May) 4.22", and Woodstown (Salem) 4.24".

Two major storms arrived in quick succession early in the month. This led to major flooding in the Passaic basin for the second consecutive March. Minor to moderate flooding occurred in the Delaware and Raritan basins. The first storm on the 6th-7th brought 3.72" to Oakland (Bergen), 3.71" at Wanaque (Passaic) and 3.64" to Rockaway (Morris). Most of the northern half of the state received more than 2". Only the far south saw less than an inch, with Stone Harbor (Cape May) receiving 0.79" and Middle Township (Cape May) 0.80". Next up was a storm on the 10th-11th that again had eyes on the Highlands. West Milford (Passaic) stations received 5.14" and 4.71". Jefferson Township (Morris) had 5.01" and Rockaway (Morris) 3.64". The northern third of NJ receive more than 2", with less toward the south, including 0.91" in Greenwich (Cumberland) and 0.95" at Merchantville (Camden).

With the second storm anticipated and conditions very wet following the first event, a state of emergency was declared prior to the second downpour. Approximately 2000 homes were evacuated, mostly in the area just upstream from Little Falls in the Passaic basin. This included 1000 families in Pompton Lakes. Crests on the Passaic and its tributaries ranked in the top ten, with stream gauge records in some cases going back over a century. Rivers topped out generally just below the floods of April 2007 and March 2010. The Passaic River at Little Falls rose to five feet above flood stage and remained in flood for ten consecutive days.

The next precipitation event to have eyes on NJ took a southern route. The lower third of the state saw the most rain, with 0.82" at Linwood (Atlantic) and Upper Deerfield (Cumberland) and 0.79" in Estell Manor (Atlantic) and Pine Beach (Ocean). As little as 0.33" fell in Woodland Park (Passaic) and Washington (Warren).

The next two storms saw some snow fall in central and northern counties and thunder rumbling in central and southern locations. The 21st saw temperatures near 60° in the south with thunderstorms dropping generally light rain. Meanwhile, northern areas were in the 30°s with rain and some snow. As much as 0.81" of rain and melted snow fell at Blairstown (Warren), 0.79" in Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon) and 0.68" in Hawthorne (Passaic), with no rain received at Vineland (Cumberland) and 0.02" in Wildwood Crest (Cape May). Snowfall topped out at 4.2" in Rockaway Township (Morris) and 3.9" in Liberty Township (Warren), but was mostly in the several tenths to an inch range in most locations where it fell.

The 23rd-24th brought another mixed bag of precipitation to NJ. Rain and snow fell in the morning hours, lighter precipitation fell during the day, and the evening brought a return to mixed conditions, with sleet, snow and hail up to 1/4" amidst lightning and thunder at central Jersey locations. When all was said and done early on the 24th, rain and melted snow amounted to as much as 1.62" in Long Hill Township (Morris), 1.41" at Liberty Township (Warren) and 1.35" in Randolph (Morris) and as little as 0.33" in Tabernacle (Burlington) and 0.36" at Berlin Township (Camden). A narrow band of heavy snow covered portions of Warren and Morris counties with as much as 11.0" in Rockaway Township (Morris), 9.5" and 9.6" totals in Randolph Township and 9.5" at Mine Hill Township (Morris). Elsewhere central and northern areas received a few tenths to several inches.

A month-straddling event began on the 31st and ended on mid day on April 1st. Southern counties saw several tenths of an inch of rain on the 31st, with lesser amounts reported in the north. Northern areas saw several tenths on the 1st, with less to the south. Some snow and sleet mixed with the rain in the north on day one of the event, but more accumulated on the 1st, which will be reported in the April narrative.

The two late-month snow events brought monthly totals of 16.0" at Rockaway Township (Morris), 13.3" and 11.0" to stations in Randolph Township (Morris) and 13.1" in Mine Hill Township (Morris). Elsewhere, totals dropped off to at most several inches in the northern half of the state and little to no snow in the south.

Statewide, March temperature averaged 41.1°. This is 0.1° above normal and ranks as the 49th warmest of the past 117 years. On the warm side of the ledger, at least one of the approximately 50 stations monitored by the state climate office reached or exceeded 60° on eight days. The 5th saw Hillsborough (Somerset) reach 65° and New Brunswick (Middlesex) and Mansfield (Burlington) at 64°. Sicklerville (Burlington) reached 60° on the 12th. Sicklerville again checked in at 60° on the 16th, along with Mansfield and Hawthorne (Passaic). The mid-month string of warm days continued with Hawthorne at 68° on the 17th, when Haworth (Bergen) and New Brunswick hit 66°. The 18th brought a record warm 80° to New Brunswick. Hillsborough, Hamilton (Mercer) and Jersey City (Hudson) reached 79°, with High Point the coolest location at 69°. The 18th was the only morning of the month when not a single location in NJ fell below freezing. The coolest low was 40° at Pequest, Hope and Hackettstown, all in Warren County.

A cold front dropped temperatures on the 19th, but not before early day warmth brought a 67° maximum to Upper Deerfield (Cumberland) and 66° at three other locations. One last day of warmth brought 63° to Clayton (Gloucester) and Hammonton (Burlington) on the 21st.

On fourteen March days, minimum temperatures fell to the teens or single digits at one or more locations. On twelve of these days, the Sussex County valley station of Walpack was in this mix. They led things off with a 19° low on the 1st, with High Point (Sussex) dropping to 13° on the 2nd. High Point fell to 7° on the 3rd, the coldest day of the month. The mildest station that morning was 24° at West Cape May (Cape May). High Point dropped to 13° on the 4th, when Walpack hit 14°. The 8th and 9th saw Walpack drop to 12° and 15°, respectively, joined with 19° at High Point and Pequest (Warren) on the 8th. Walpack was at 15° and Pequest 19° on the 15th, with the 20th bringing a low of 15° at Walpack.

The 25th-30th saw lows in the teens at Walpack, Pequest and/or High Point, with Wantage (Sussex) joining in on the 27th at 19°. Walpack was at 12° on the 25th and Pequest 15°. The 26th saw 11° at Walpack and 14° at Pequest and High Point. The latter station took honors on the 27th at 15°, and repeated this the next day, when Walpack was 16°. Walpack and Pequest reached 16° and 19°, respectively, on the 29th and both were at 19° on the 30th.

Unlike many Marches, this one was not particularly windy. Nonetheless, nine days saw winds gust at or above 40 mph in one or more location. Wantage (Sussex) peaked at 43 mph on the 1st and 45 mph on the 2nd. High Point Monument (Sussex) hit 49 mph on the 2nd, which statewide was the windiest day of the month. Gusts along the coast of 47 mph at Bivalve (Cumberland) and 40 mph at the Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) occurred on the 6th. The next day saw the month's maximum gust of 61 mph at Wantage, with a 42 mph peak at Hawthorne (Passaic). Bivalve gusted to 49 mph on the 10th, Harvey Cedars (Ocean) 40 mph on the 13th, and Wantage to 45 mph on the 17th and 42 mph on the 18th. Ten days later the 28th brought a 45 mph gust to Wantage and 41 mph peak to High Point Monument.

The highest pressure of the month was reached on the 4th, when many barometers topped out at an impressive 30.70" to 30.75". Just three days later, the 7th saw the lowest March pressures at 29.40" to 29.45".

For those seeking more detailed information on hourly, daily and monthly conditions, please visit the following Office of the NJ State Climatologist's websites:

NJ Weather and Climate Network
NJ Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network
NJ Snow Event Reports

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