Winter will deliver a cold, snowy blast that will upset travel across the central and eastern US and plunge Texas into a deep freeze. Chicago and the Midwest will likely get a heavy snow dump, while New York, Washington and Boston will see send wind-driven rain, just as travelers hit the road for the Christmas holiday.
The winter solstice arrives Wednesday, Dec. 21, and then record-setting cold will spread across the US South starting Thursday with temperatures plunging below freezing, 32 F (0 C), all across Texas, said Frank Pereira, a senior branch forecaster at the US Weather Prediction Center. Meanwhile, a blizzard will sweep across the Ohio Valley, upsetting air and ground travel and possibly delaying last-minute deliveries.
“It is going to make air travel quite challenging, well all travel quite challenging,” said Josh Weiss, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center. “For traveling Friday and Saturday, it’s going to be a mess for the eastern third of the country.”
Deep cold across Texas will drive up electric demand, taxing the state’s grid. It may trigger memories of the prolonged cold snap in February 2021, which knocked out power for days and left more than 200 people dead. This year’s cold, however, is not forecast to be as extreme — or as prolonged — as the arctic blast that crippled the state nearly two years ago.
Meanwhile, large winter storms hitting Chicago, major air hub, may have a cascading effect on air travel, delaying some flights and cancelling others.
The exact track of the storm will decide whether Chicago gets mainly snow or a mix with some rain, Weiss said. New York, Washington and Boston, will probably avoid snow but will be raked with gusty, wind-driven rain.
The storm will blow across the Great Plains Thursday before spinning east, bringing snow to the Midwest through Saturday, Christmas Eve, a peak travel period across North America. The snow and rain across the northeast should be moving out by Christmas Day.
As snow strikes the northern US, record cold will plunge down the Great Plains and into Texas and the South starting Thursday and lingering through the weekend. Overnight lows in Brownsville, at the state’s southern tip near Mexico, will be below freezing, Pereira said.
“Much of the state is going to remain below normal into Christmas,” Pereira said.
Top photo: A worker clears snow from the front of a business in Chicago in Feb. 2022.
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