Dramatic freeze-up, snow to come in like polar express
A storm that causes full blown blizzard conditions in the northern plains mid-week will sweep an explosion of bitter Arctic air over the Midwest and southern and eastern parts of the United States by Christmas Day. AccuWeather forecasters warn the arctic air and brutal winds will feel like winter - and the combination of snow and a dramatic freeze will make some places feel like the North Pole.
This composite radar image was captured Wednesday morning, December 23, 2020, and shows a band of snow associated with the arrival of arctic air from Colorado to northern Minnesota. The combination of poor visibility in the snow and strong winds creates blizzard conditions in part of this zone. (AccuWeather)
Although travel restrictions are in place in many areas of the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, weather will add another deterrent from Minnesota to eastern Tennessee and the mountains of North Carolina. The advancing cold air will continue to catch up with the trailing edge of a storm and a trailing cold front in the states of Central, South and East, causing wintry weather and a number of hazards for motorists.
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High winds blew up to 80 miles per hour, causing snow and whiteout conditions over parts of Nebraska and the Dakotas on Wednesday morning - and the wintry weather won't stop there.
"Snow and gusty winds will span much of Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and Wisconsin, and the Michigan Upper Peninsula by Wednesday evening," said Brett Anderson, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.
"Falling temperatures in parts of the plain in the upper Midwest are causing rapid freezing, changing road conditions from slushy to snowy and icy," said Anderson.
This time around, snow will dodge the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri areas, but the cold swing will be brutal. On Thursday, temperatures in Kansas City and St. Louis will have a hard time reaching 30 ° F and Chicago and Milwaukee may not reach 20 ° F. Single-digit highs are forecast for Minneapolis on Thursday.
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"AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures are expected to drop below zero over much of the northern and central plains by Thursday morning and the core of that brutally cold air will slowly settle east," said Anderson, adding, "The polar air will grab a bite further south. "
The temperature in Atlanta will plummet into the 20s during the night hours from Christmas Eve through Saturday. The penetrating cold increases the risk of unprotected pipes freezing. People away from home are encouraged to take precautions to avoid burst pipes and water damage.
Temperatures can drop around Orlando, Florida by Christmas morning in the upper 30's and are expected to drop near freezing on Saturday morning. The cold jump on the Florida Peninsula could pose some risk to strawberries in the state's central counties, but even areas as far as Miami and Key West, Florida will feel the cold. On Saturday morning, temperatures in these areas could start in their 40s and 50s.
"The arrival of cold air at the back of the storm and front in the Appalachians and the eastern portions of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, as well as the lower Great Lakes region, is accompanied by a dramatic transition from rain to snow and then a freeze," said Anderson.
Roads that were originally wet during the first part of the storm will likely become muddy, snow-covered, and icy in a matter of hours or less on Thursday and Thursday. When the cold air arrives and gusty winds change from south to west, sporadic power outages from the Appalachians to the Midwest are possible.
Forecasters strongly advise against traveling from Thursday afternoon to Thursday evening during the rapid freeze, as changing weather often brings the greatest challenges and dangerous conditions for motorists.
A couple of inches of snow can fall on parts of Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western Virginia, and the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, as well as much of western Pennsylvania and western New York, if the cold air catches up with the moisture from the storm .
When the storm hits and arctic air rushes over the Great Lakes, lake-effect snow ribbons will rise in parts of New York state, intertwining with precipitation on Christmas Day and even Saturday. If bands of snow linger for several hours, a foot or more of snow can accumulate by the weekend.
The cold air will rush east of the Appalachians and into the central Atlantic on Christmas Day. New England is expected to be the last region to experience winter conditions on Friday evenings and Saturday.
In most cases, the combination of drier and colder air causes the roads along the east coast to dry out. On Christmas Day and even this weekend, some of these eastern areas can still be hit by the high winds and inundating rain from the storm.
Floods and blackouts can go beyond the storm with colder air flowing in, potentially leaving thousands of customers without heat.
Check back often at AccuWeather.com and keep up to date on the AccuWeather network of DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
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