Santa Claus may rely heavily this year on Rudolph's shiny nose as he heads into New Jersey early Christmas morning. But neither the weather, nor the pandemic, will change Saint Nick's plans.

The big man in red, along with his sleigh and reindeer, will have to navigate through less than ideal conditions in order to deliver gifts to kids throughout the state.

"This is going to be far from a silent night this Christmas, and Santa's in for a bumpy ride with a strong cold front driving in heavy rain and wind," said New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

Following a relatively calm Christmas Eve day, weather conditions are expected to take a turn for the worse as kids prepare for their final sleep before Christmas morning. Joining strong winds already in progress, rain is expected to move in around 10 p.m., according to Zarrow's forecast. He's calling for one to two inches of rain in most spots, along with 40+ mph wind gusts.

"But Santa has his meteor-elf-ologists at the North Pole helping to guide him, and I've never heard of Christmas being cancelled because of the weather," Zarrow said.

According to Zarrow, there is a limited chance for a quick hit of snowflakes at the tail-end of Friday morning's rain. No accumulation is expected — just the possibility of a few flakes for the folks who love to see the white stuff fall on Christmas Day.

The last statewide white Christmas, defined by having one or more inch of snow on the ground in the morning, occurred in 2009 when many parts of the state were covered in at least six inches of snow that fell earlier in the week, according to State Climatologist David Robinson at Rutgers University.

Understanding potential concerns related to visits to multiple homes during a global pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday that Santa's mission is considered "essential."

"He is cleared for takeoff and he's cleared for all the work that I know he will do up and down the state of New Jersey," Murphy said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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