WEATHER ALERT DAY: Accumulating snow, dangerous cold arrives
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Astronomical winter officially begins on Wednesday as we celebrate the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year, where the sun reaches it’s southern most point in the sky and the time of year that our daylight finally begins to pick back up. Mother Nature will celebrate the happy occasion with a brutally cold winter storm that is set to sweep across the state through the day on Wednesday into early Thursday, then in it’s wake, leaving us with dangerously cold wind chills into the upcoming holiday weekend. The entire state is covered by some sort of winter weather headline, whether it’s a Winter Weather Advisory or Winter Storm Warning, and the entire state is covered by a Wind Chill Warning that will last through 12 PM on Saturday.
There’s a lot to unpack with this forecast, so we’ll start with what we can expect on Wednesday as our winter storm begins to roll across the state. Skies should be mostly cloudy through Wednesday morning and afternoon with south and southeast winds that should be a bit breezy into the afternoon. Winds will turn through as cold air dives into the state on the back end of this system as we head into Wednesday evening. Temperatures will drop VERY FAST as the cold air surges through the area. As far as snow is concerned, there is the potential for some drizzle, flurries, or even some light snow into the afternoon, but the main snow event is expected to move across the coverage area into Wednesday evening and Wednesday night, with the biggest impacts for Lincoln and eastern Nebraska likely beginning late Wednesday evening with blizzard-like conditions possible at times.
Snow is expected to continue across parts of eastern and southeastern Nebraska into early Thursday morning with the majority of the snow coming to an end by sunrise on Thursday morning. Some lingering snow showers will be possible through Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon, we should be left with decreasing clouds and dry conditions.
Total snowfall amounts have been trending down with this storm system, but as of Tuesday evening we’re expecting the heaviest snow across far southeastern and east central Nebraska, where 4″ to 6″ of snow is possible. 2″ to 4″ will be possible from parts of northeastern Nebraska into south central parts of the state, with 1″ to 2″ possible across much of central and western parts of the state.
This snow is expected to be very light and fluffy due in part to the very cold conditions, because of this, it will be easily blown around by very strong winds that are expected to impact the area beginning Wednesday evening. The strong winds - with gusts between 30 to 50 MPH - will persist through the day on Thursday and Friday before finally weakening into the weekend.
The combination of a light and fluffy snow and the very strong winds are expecting to lead to difficult, dangerous, and at times, impossible travel conditions across the coverage area from Wednesday night through Thursday morning. Even after the snow is done falling, areas of blowing snow will lead to reduced visibility and hazardous travel conditions on Thursday, Friday, and even into early Saturday morning. If you have to travel during any of these times, please make sure you have the proper winter survival kit in your vehicle. If you can avoid traveling, it would be best to postpone or move travel plans into the holiday weekend.
That’s just the snow and the wind, on top of that, brutally cold conditions with dangerous and potentially deadly wind chills are expected through this upcoming weekend. As mentioned above, Wind Chill Warnings are in place across the entire state through 12 PM on Tuesday. Wind chills by Thursday morning will likely range between -30° to -60° across the state. Frostbite and hypothermia can develop in just minutes in conditions that cold. Wind chills are expected to stay WELL below zero - likely between about -10° and -40° all the way through Christmas morning with “feels like” temperatures finally becoming a bit more tolerable by Christmas afternoon.
Again, if you have to be out in conditions like this, make sure you’re dressed properly with several layers and as much skin covered as you can.
As far as actual temperatures are concerned, look for low temperatures most mornings through Christmas morning to be in the single digits both above and below zero with the coldest mornings coming on Thursday and Friday with lows ranging between -10° and -20°. Daytime high temperatures will be very cold with afternoon highs likely not getting above zero on Thursday. Daytime highs finally begin to rebound on Christmas Day with forecast highs in the low to mid 20s in eastern Nebraska with mid to upper 40s in the west.
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