Pre-Christmas blizzard could turn into bomb storm in northern US
With winter a day away, a strengthening pre-Christmas snowstorm that experts say could become a bomb cyclone will bring heavy snow, strong gusts of wind and plummeting temperatures to the Central and Northern Plains, the Upper Midwest and the United States this week Bring Great Lakes.
The winter storm system, brewing along an incoming Arctic front, could create treacherous conditions for vacation travel as federal forecasters expect the blizzard to strike much of the Midwest and Great Lakes late Wednesday through Christmas Eve.
Winter storm warnings, cold wind warnings and winter weather warnings were in effect in parts of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest — where up to 24 inches of additional snow was expected in Washington on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for over 40 million people across the northern US, including Chicago, where forecasters expected strong winds and low temperatures to be a more concern than snow.
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Heavy rain soaking a melting blanket of snow could trigger flooding concerns in the Northeast through Friday, according to the weather service.
Here’s what you should know about the blizzard that will hit the US before Christmas:
When is the blizzard expected this week?
National Weather Service forecasters expect the storm system to develop and gain strength on Wednesday evening before moving across the Great Lakes early Friday. Snowstorms are likely to develop in places like Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois across the Midwest on Thursday, according to AccuWeather.
The Windy City can expect to live up to its moniker Thursday and Friday, when the strongest gusts along with falling snow help temperatures drop to minus 20 F and minus 25 F, according to NWS Chicago.
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Worsening conditions in Chicago may also result in low to zero visibility during the storm peak period from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Brett Borchardt told USA TODAY.
Also Thursday, according to AccuWeather, sleet and freezing rain were expected to fall across the Ohio Valley in parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
How cold could temperatures get in the US?
The short answer: extremely cold in places. Over 26 million people were under a wind chill watch issued by the National Weather Service in parts of the north-central and south-central United States on Tuesday. Federal forecasters were predicting bitter cold and dangerous wind showers over the northern plains, which would sweep south across the central U.S. by Thursday.
Meteorologists in the Twin Cities were forecasting wind showers of minus 40 F Thursday through Friday. According to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva, even southern locations like Orlando, Florida could see below freezing this week.
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Temperatures could fall as much as 30 degrees below normal in the center of the country from the Gulf Coast to the northeast, DaSilva said.
“Records are being challenged in some areas, but you’re not going to see records fall in every state,” he said, calling the drop in temperatures “very impressive” for this time of year.
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When will this blizzard turn into a bomb storm?
It’s likely to happen Thursday through Friday, according to DaSilva, who defined a bomb cyclone as a drop in a storm’s atmospheric pressure of 24 millibars in 24 hours.
“It’s a measure of a storm’s rapid strength, and it looks like the storm is going to get that ‘bomb cyclone’ status because it’s going to strengthen pretty quickly,” DaSilva said.
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What are the expected impacts of the snowstorm?
- Heavy snowfall and gusting winds can result in near-zero visibility and snowdrifts, according to the National Weather Service, making air and land travel dangerous and sometimes impossible ahead of the holiday weekend.
- The blizzard could uproot trees and trigger power outages, making home heaters and burst water pipes a concern for some, experts have warned.
- Coastal flooding could also threaten the Northeast, including New England, by Friday, according to AccuWeather.