A powerful winter storm system dumping more than half a foot of snow across the Midwest is expected to merge with the back end of a coastal storm off New England late Wednesday into Thursday, generating intense bands of heavy rain and snow that could disrupt travel and cause power problems throughout the tri-state area, meteorologists say.
The most recent snow accumulation predictions call for 2 to 5 inches in the city, surrounding suburbs and Long Island, and 1 to 3 inches north and west of Route 287. Parts of central and southern New Jersey could see more than 5 inches of snow.
Though the exact track and intensity of the looming storm remain unclear, forecasters are confident the region will be afflicted by strong winds and coastal flooding that may cause issues regardless of how much precipitation accumulates on the ground.
Meteorologists expect wind gusts to reach highs of 60 mph along the coast Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, and a high wind watch has been issued for Ocean and Monmouth counties in New Jersey for the next 24 hours.
Localized power outages are possible as the anticipated heavy rain and wet snow weigh down tree limbs thrashed by intense wind gusts along the coast.
Significant beach erosion is also possible along the Sandy-battered coasts of New Jersey and Long Island due to the duration of intense wind and surf, forecasters say. Minor to moderate coastal flooding is likely, particularly during high tide cycles late Wednesday into Thursday morning.
Precipitation will develop around midday Wednesday. Meteorologists expect the city to see a mix of rain and snow and areas north and west of the city to experience mostly wet snow. Rain is expected for the coast, and a coastal flood watch has been issued through Thursday morning for the city, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, Fairfield County in Connecticut and Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and Hudson counties in New Jersey.
Authorities in Brick Township, N.J., which is still reeling from the damage from Sandy, issued a voluntary evacuation order for the barrier island Tuesday ahead of the storm.
Residents only moved back within the last two months, but Mayor Stephen Acropolis said they are strongly encouraged to leave due to flooding concerns. Acropolis says people in neighborhoods bordering Barnegat Bay prone to flooding are also encouraged to leave.
As the storm intensifies, the rain/snow line is expected to break apart to the south, turning the wintry mix experienced by the city earlier in the day to mostly snow Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The snow is expected to be pasty and wet, which could cause power outages but is not likely to stick around long due to anticipated temperatures above freezing.
Forecasters say the heavy snow is expected to taper off Thursday morning as the storm pulls away from the coast.
Meteorologists caution that the snow band associated with this storm is highly uncertain, and accumulation expectations may change dramatically with a slight shift of the models, so be sure to check back with Storm Team 4 and NBC 4 New York for the latest forecasts.
The weather turns warmer for the weekend, with temperatures reaching into the high 40s with a slight chance of cracking 50 degrees.
NBC 4 New York reporter Brian Thompson contributed to this story.