Forecasters predict that an Arctic air mass will descend on the United States this week, bringing plenty of precipitation and dangerously low temperatures, making for potentially nightmare holiday travel conditions.
As last week’s massive storm passed before the first day of Chanukah, the possibility of a white Christmas for the eastern half of the country loomed, just in time for the winter solstice on Wednesday.
Snow is unlikely to fall in New York City, but there will be plenty of rain and cold temperatures.
“A frigid Arctic air mass will plunge southward throughout this week, bringing dangerously cold temps & wind chills across the Central & Eastern United States,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter. “As you finish your holiday shopping, take steps to protect yourself from the cold.”
The air mass will envelop the eastern two-thirds of the United States in dangerously cold temperatures — potentially “the coldest air of the season,” with temperatures 10 to 35 degrees lower than normal — and combine with a powerful storm by the end of the week, according to the NWS.
Accuweather meteorologist Ryan Adamson told the Daily News that the storm will have similar effects in two different parts of the country. “Some snow will fall in Montana, Wyoming, and the Plains on Wednesday,” he said, “but the real storm will hit on Thursday.”
That’s when it’ll hit Kansas, northeastern Oklahoma, and Missouri before moving up to Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, and other parts of Michigan on Friday, according to Adamson. Meanwhile, rain is expected in the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. This precipitation could begin as snow or ice in central Pennsylvania and New York before changing to rain.
“It looks like a rain event” for the I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston, according to Adamson. However, winds will become much stronger, and temperatures will fall, rapidly freezing any remaining water.
According to NWS forecasts, temperatures will drop to 13 degrees in Jackson, Mississippi, and 5 degrees in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thursday night. The Northern High Plains will experience temperatures 20 to 35 degrees below average, according to the NWS. Even in Florida, temperatures were expected to drop into the low 20s on Christmas Eve, with a high of only 40 degrees.
Temperatures will likely remain below freezing in the far south through Christmas Day, according to Adamson.
Adamson cautioned anyone who couldn’t move their travel to Monday or Tuesday. He predicted weather-related flight delays and cancellations and advised drivers to “keep both hands on the steering wheel.”