Another Record-Shattering Month: October 2011 Summary

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
November 6, 2011

The record-shattering weather year of 2011 continues. Up until the last few days of the month, October looked to be providing NJ with a breather from the wild side of things. However along came the most significant October snowstorm on record on the 29th and quiescent conditions went out the window. The liquid equivalent of the snow and more modest rains earlier in the month brought the Jersey-wide precipitation total for the year to 56.91". Thus we enter the last two months of the year needing only 3.08" of precipitation to eclipse the calendar year record of 59.98" back in 1996. The average combined precipitation for the last two months of the year is 7.54", thus with just over 40% of average precipitation a new record will be established. A record still within the realm of possibility is the wettest of any consecutive twelve month period. Currently that record is the 66.60" falling between April 2009 and March 2010.

October was the 9th consecutive month with above-average temperatures across the Garden State. Seventeen of the past twenty months have been in the positive temperature anomaly column. The 55.9° October average ties 1898 for the 38th warmest since 1895 and is 1.1° above the 1981-2010 statewide average. The warmest episode of the month occurred from the 8th-10th. Haworth (Bergen County) and Hawthorne (Passaic) reached 82° on the 8th. The 9th was the warmest day, with New Brunswick topping out at 88°, 87° reached at five other locations (of the over 50 stations in the NJ Weather and Climate Network (NJWxNet)), and 85° at five others. Only West Cape May (Cape May) at 77° and High Point Monument (Sussex) at 78° failed to reach 80°. The 10th brought a high of 86° to New Brunswick and 85° to Jersey City (Hudson) and Howell (Monmouth).

Despite nighttime temperatures falling to between 33° and 39° on thirteen occasions, it wasn't until High Point Monument and High Point (Sussex, 1385 foot elevation) fell to 31° and 32° late on the evening of the 27th that any location in NJ fell to the freezing point this fall season. This was followed by a widespread freeze in non-urban areas of north Jersey and the Pine Barrens on the morning of the 28th. Walpack (Sussex) and High Point Monument fell to 26°, with other stations between 30°-32°. This first freeze is 2-3 weeks later than average in these areas. Even more of NJ fell below freezing during the snow on the 29th, with all stations between 30°-32° except the two High Point stations at 28°. West Cape May stayed the warmest at 38°.

With snow cover, High Point and Walpack dropped to 25° on the 30th, with widespread upper 20°s. Halloween dawned as the coldest morning of the season thus far, with Berkeley Township (Ocean) and Pequest (Warren) at 21°, and Kingwood (Hunterdon) at 22°. All NJWxNet stations fell below freezing except Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic), Harvey Cedars (Ocean), and Seaside Heights (Ocean), which made it through October without a freezing temperature.

While not an exceptionally wet month, the 4.39" that fell on average across NJ was 0.46" above average and ranked as the 34th wettest of the past 117 Octobers. The Highlands region of north Jersey and coastal north Jersey were the wettest areas of the state in October. As a reminder, this includes rainfall and melted snowfall (known as snow water equivalent). Vernon Township (Sussex) came in with 7.59" and Ocean Township (Monmouth) received 7.04". Other large totals included Randolph Township (Morris) 6.36", West Milford (Passaic) 6.33", and Little Falls (Passaic) and Brick Township (Ocean) both with 6.25". The Cape May County towns of Sea Isle City (2.74"), Stone Harbor (2.87"), and Wildwood Crest (2.91") had the lowest October totals. Hainesport (Burlington) was next with 3.12".

These monthly totals include light rainfall during the afternoon and evening of September 30, rain that picked up in intensity early on the morning of the 1st (this a function of the 7AM observing time for most of the CoCoRaHS stations used in the precipitation summary). This rain continued into the 2nd and brought as much as 1.96" to Brick Township, and 1.65" to both Ocean Township and Belmar (Monmouth). As seen later in the month, the southern coastal counties had the lowest totals. The northwest corner had about 0.50" on the 4th, with Lafayette Township topping the list at 0.62". A statewide event on the 12th into the early 13th saw less than 0.50" fall except for the coastal north, where Belmar (Monmouth) saw 0.98" and Berkeley Township (Ocean) 0.85".

The northern half of NJ was soaked on the 14th, with overnight and afternoon thunderstorms depositing as much as 1.80" in Randolph Township, 1.71" in River Vale (Bergen), and 1.45" in West Milford (Passaic).

A more widespread storm on the 19th into the early 20th saw most of NJ receive between 0.50"-1.00". The area from Monmouth County into northeast counties generally had 1.00"-1.50" totals, with 1.93" in Eatontown (Monmouth) and 1.89" at Red Bank (Monmouth). The 27th to early on the 28th brought under 0.25" to the southern half of the state and 0.25"-0.75" to the north. High Point received 0.96", River Vale 0.93", North Haledon (Passaic) 0.91", and Newton (Sussex) 0.90". This event also brought the first snow of the season to the Garden State. Higher elevations saw as much as 0.3" in West Milford and 0.1" in the Barry Lakes area of Vernon Township (Sussex).

The precipitation finale of the month was certainly grand. Rain began in south Jersey early on the 29th and spread north after dawn. Some northern areas saw the precipitation begin as snow, while during the morning the rain turned to snow in all of central and northern NJ. Moderate to heavy snow continued into the afternoon, occasionally mixing with sleet in lower elevations. Areas in the south, especially toward the southwest, also saw some snow and sleet mix in with the rain during the morning and afternoon. Thunder was heard in some locations, as the heavy, very wet snow continued. Once the snow tapered off in the early hours of the 30th NJ had experienced its largest October snowstorm at least since the late 18th century. As much as 19.1" was measured in the Barry Lakes area of Vernon Township (1250 foot elevation). 19.0" was also recorded at higher elevations in West Milford (Passaic). For a county by county listing of storm snow totals and a map showing accumulations, visit our 2011-2012 snow totals page.

Little more than an inch fell in the south. Once up to the Rt. 1 corridor of central NJ, 3-5" totals were observed. Northern areas generally saw 5-9" in lower elevations and 9" to over a foot higher up, with foot plus totals confined to elevations over 1000 feet. Rain and melted snow amounted to 1.50"-2.00" of liquid in the central third of NJ, with the southern and northern thirds catching between 1.00"-1.50".

The Barry Lakes total is a record for October, surpassing the previous record of 14.0" at High Point on October 28, 2008. The 2008 event was by far the heaviest October event on record until the 2011 "thumping". Previous October storms have rarely totaled more than several inches, even at the highest locations. Not only is the 19.1" single event at Barry Lakes a record storm for October, but it also surpasses any early season total up to December 11-12, 1960, when 21.0" fell at Flemington! Thus it is not surprising that the 19.3" for the month at West Milford is a monthly record for October.

Once several inches had accumulated, branches and entire trees began to snap and crash onto homes, power lines, and automobiles. Tragically, one person in Summit (Union) was killed while driving. By storm's end, over 600,000 customers had lost power, some remaining in the dark for a week or longer following the event. All told, eight NJ residents lost their lives due to storm-related traffic accidents, a house fire spawned by a fallen line, and carbon monoxide poisoning from efforts to keep warm using a generator. While the number of outages did not equal the million from Tropical Storm Irene (upon further examination by the National Hurricane Center, Irene has been reclassified as a tropical storm prior to making land fall in New Jersey), they were concentrated in a smaller area of the state. Some schools were closed for the week following this Saturday storm due to the lack of power and the dangers of navigating roads and sidewalks due to the tremendous tree damage and fallen lines. The storm also resulted in Halloween activities being canceled, postponed or adjusted in a number of communities.

While winds were not excessive in the areas receiving snow, they howled on the 29th along the Jersey shore. Atlantic City Marina saw a gust to 56 mph, Seaside Heights 51 mph, Harvey Cedars 49 mph, Point Pleasant (Ocean) 40 mph, and Bivalve (Cumberland) 40 mph.

Other occasions with wind gusts equaling or exceeding 40 mph during October included 42 mph at High Point Monument on the 5th, 41 mph in Hillsborough (Somerset) on the 14th, and 43 mph and 40 mph at Atlantic City Marina on the 15th and 16th, respectively. High Point Monument gusted to 45 mph and Seaside Heights to 44 mph on the 19th, Atlantic City Marina to 45 mph and Bivalve to 44 mph on the 20th, and High Point Monument to 48 mph on the 25th.

The highest barometric pressure of the month occurred on the 8th, with many locations ranging between 30.50"-30.55". The 19th and 20th saw lows of 29.30"-29.35". Fog was reported on the 2nd, 4th, 13th, 14th and 27th at various locations around the state.

One certainly has to wonder what weather surprises November and December might bring. More record shattering conditions? An annual rainfall record? Stay tuned...

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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