Pre-Christmas blizzard will lead to dangerous holiday travel
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Winter Solstice is this afternoon at 3:48 pm, officially marking the start of the winter season. Mother Nature will follow suit, bringing an impactful winter storm to the Midwest late today into Christmas weekend. This is a storm that contains a three-pronged punch: Snow, Wind, and Cold. Whether you are in the Blizzard Warning or the Winter Storm Warning, the message is the same: travel will become difficult to impossible on Thursday and Friday with whiteout conditions.
It is natural to ask “how much snow?” but we want to stress, the amount of snow that falls does not matter with this storm. The impacts go far beyond totals alone. Because of the cold, snow will be very light and fluffy. It will easily blow around creating hazardous, if not impossible, travel conditions. Overall the snowfall forecast is for 4-8″, though it will be tough to get any reliable measurements due to the wind. As for timing, snowfall begins late this afternoon and looks to wrap up Thursday afternoon/evening. Even as the snow ends, the most impactful parts of the storm will still be to come.
Wind will cause the greatest impact to travel. Thursday morning, the winds increase quickly from the northwest. These strong wind gusts will be with us all the way through Saturday morning. Look for gusts greater than 40mph, with some topping 50 mph leading to whiteout conditions. This will cause a considerable reduction in visibility due to blowing and drifting snow making travel impossible at times.
Temperatures plummet below zero during the day on Thursday, lasting through Saturday morning. Due to the cold temperatures, the snow will be very light and fluffy, thus easily wind-blown. Northwest wind will produce dangerous wind chills from -20 to -40. Even at the warmest parts of the day, it will feel like the negative teens or 20s. Frostbite can occur in less than 15 minutes in this cold, so make sure you dress appropriately. Cover exposed skin, especially ears and nose and try to limit time outside if possible.
What you can do
If you have travel plans from late this afternoon through Thursday, you should be thinking of alternate scenarios, as it looks difficult and dangerous at times. Postpone travel if possible. If you must be on the roads, have a winter weather kit in your car as it is possible you could be stranded for some time in the worst of the storm.
You should consider checking on the usual things that you might do before the first bigger winter storm of the season. Try and start your snow blower to make sure it’s in good working order, and check on the durability of your shovels. Look at driveway salt supplies and determine if it’s time to replenish. Make sure your pets are taken care of.
With the expected cold air, especially from Thursday onward when wind chills will stay below zero for days, make sure that you have proper winter clothing to keep yourself safe from frostbite. Hat, gloves, scarves, and heavy coats will all be needed during this time.
If you don’t have one ready, consider getting together a winter survival kit for your vehicle, which could include:
- Full Tank of Gas
- Jumper cables or jump pack
- Cell phone charger
- First Aid Kit
- Flashlight with batteries
- Blankets to keep warm
- Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
- Shovel, Ice Scraper, Snow Brush
- Emergency flares
- Sand or cat litter for traction
- Coat, Hat, Scarf, and Boots for all Travelers
We’ll be watching through the coming days and providing additional updates on-air, here on KCRG.com, and through the KCRG-TV9 First Alert Weather app.
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