For millions of Americans across much of the country, the holiday week begins with relentless sub-zero temperatures made even more miserable by heavy snowfall expected Tuesday and Wednesday in several central and northwestern states.
More than 30 million people are under wind chill alert across much of the central and northwestern United States, including places hit with blizzard conditions by a separate storm system last week. Parts of Alabama and Tennessee are also under wind chill watch as “look-alike” temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
On Tuesday, the sprawling weather system is delivering dangerously cold temperatures and snow to Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and most of Minnesota, where high temperatures will remain below freezing, according to National Weather forecasters. Service.
The air is so cold that frostbite on exposed skin can occur in less than 10 minutes in most affected areas, and some isolated spots in less than five minutes, forecasters warn.
“In addition to brutally cold temperatures, dangerous wind chill values of 35 to 55 degrees below zero are possible through the end of the week in these areas,” the Weather Prediction Center said Monday.
Wind chill advisories are in place for Sioux, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota, on Tuesday as frostbite dangers set in. Wind chill, which indicates what the wind is like, will be as low as 40 degrees below zero.
“Starting tonight, the worst of the Arctic air mass will reach our region, bringing dangerous temperatures and wind chills. Slippery roads will continue with additional snow accumulation expected Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning,” said the weather service office in Glasgow, Montana, said Monday night.
Snowfall has already started in Seattle, which is under a winter storm warning on Tuesday. The storm will move east through parts of Idaho on Tuesday morning, then spread into northern and central Montana later in the afternoon.
As the storm moves east this week, it is likely to make holiday travel difficult or even dangerous in many places, with forecasters urging people to be prepared to make changes.
In Minnesota, the Twin Cities Weather Service implored residents to beware of the “potentially dangerous week of weather,” with the worst effects in the Midwest starting Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, travel will be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening later this week, so be prepared to change your travel plans now!” said the local weather service office.
Many local governments in affected areas have opened warming centers in an attempt to help those in need.
Overall, most of the United States is expected to experience abnormally cold temperatures this week. In fact, more than 80% of the country, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, is expected to experience sub-zero temperatures.
In Montana, Helena and Missoula are under a winter storm warning starting Tuesday, and Billings is under a wind chill advisory until noon Friday.
The storm is also expected to intensify as it approaches the Midwest, where the greatest impacts are expected. Snow will start in the area on Wednesday and last for much of the Christmas weekend.
In parts of central Minnesota, several inches of fluffy snow are expected Wednesday, followed by high winds, creating the potential for a blizzard. A blizzard is defined as having winds of at least 35 mph with falling snow or blowing snow that reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less, for at least three hours.
“By Thursday, wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph seem likely. With the fluffy snow in place, blizzard conditions are very likely region-wide, even in areas not typically favored by whiteout conditions,” the weather service said.
Chicago is expected to be one of the hardest-hit cities, where a winter storm watch is in effect Thursday night through Friday night. With blizzard conditions likely, holiday travel could be cut short for many people looking to celebrate with family and loved ones.
“Conditions are rapidly deteriorating late Thursday afternoon, with dangerous blizzard conditions appearing increasingly likely Thursday evening through Friday,” said the Chicago Weather Services office, home to one of the busiest airports and long-distance train depots in the country.
Meanwhile, even southern cities unaccustomed to wintry conditions will get a snappy taste of it this holiday season, with Austin, Houston, Atlanta and even Orlando likely to see sub-zero temperatures midweek.
In Texas, the National Weather Service wanted to reassure residents that this week’s unusually cold temperatures are unlikely to affect the state as badly as last year’s brutal winter storms, when millions of people lost power during an event week-long weather extreme in February 2021.
However, the water pipes are at risk of bursting, the weather service said. A wind chill watch for Amarillo, Texas is in effect Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon.
“Outdoor pipes will be at risk due to well below freezing temperatures and windy conditions over the weekend,” said the weather service in fort worth said. “Be sure to cover the pipes and let the faucets drip!”