Imagine the arrival of a squall line; the darkening skies, sudden blast of wind, and deluge of rain.

This is how the onset of the pre-Christmas winter storm will be experienced. But instead, it will be a sudden drop in temperature and bursts of heavy snow accompanying the sudden blast of wind.

This is a dangerous winter storm. And here's why.

Commodity weather apps and traditional snowfall maps won't do it justice. Roads will go from dry and mild to snow-covered and treacherous in a matter of just a few miles or minutes. All while millions of Americans are trying to reach their holiday destination before the weekend. This is especially true for motorists heading west or north into the storm.

I will summarize the most dangerous routes to avoid, followed by a "deadline to arrival" day and time for your destination.

Suggested Routes to Avoid

There won't be a lot of rain or a big warm-up ahead of this storm in most areas. Snow events in the Ozarks and lower Ohio Valley are usually a changeover event, with a gradual drop in temperature as the precipitation winds down. Instead, temperatures with this front will drop more than 20 degrees in an hour, and winds will gust over 40 mph as snow picks up rapidly. Visibilities could be less than 1/8th of a mile for several hours after the passage of the front.

Here is an example of what this will look like on a graph for Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Thursday.

The following interstate routes will most likely experience something similar when the front arrives. Suggested time of arrivals for select cities are available in the following section.

Deadlines to Destination for Safe Arrival

Motorists who are traveling west, northwest, or southwest along the interstates mentioned above are at much greater risk of getting stranded. That is, if you don't leave in time to BEAT the Siberia-like onslaught.

That's why I've created a map with deadlines to your destination.

Please note: If you are traveling east, which is the same motion as the storm, you will likely need to plan on arriving 4 to 6 hours sooner than displayed on the map above.

This will be the most memorable week of extreme winter weather centered around Christmas in a generation.

And it WON'T all be pretty. I'm making this claim based on the cumulative impact of cold, wind, and snow during the busy holiday travel days leading up to Christmas (Thu-Sat).

A powerful winter storm - and likely a blizzard in some areas - will mark the arrival of an arctic blast that will make holiday travel nearly impossible in some areas, and any last-minute shopping miserable for most.

This is my early call on accumulations for the primary storm system moving through the Plains and Midwest Thursday and Friday. The map does not factor in any blowing or drifting of the snow that may occur through the weekend.

Snowfall Forecast Christmas 2022

If you're wondering about a white Christmas, I will post an update to the probabilities posted in this story on Tuesday. Spoiler alert: Chances are much higher across Missouri and Illinois (>80%), but a bit lower from Oklahoma to Tennessee (<30%).

The bigger story during the upcoming holiday travel period is likely to be the extremely cold air mass that follows. Subfreezing temperatures will dive as far south as the Texas Gulf Coast and the I-4 corridor across Florida.

Following the initial surge of arctic air, the combination of snow cover and a weaker front or two will keep temperatures below normal for several days following the Christmas holiday for the majority of the eastern two-thirds of the nation.

How the Storm Unfolds

An arctic front will be plunging south through western Canada Wednesday, then across the northern and central Plains Thursday. An upper-level disturbance will ride this polar jet stream south and spawn a low-pressure system over the Mid-South.

A tightening pressure gradient, plummeting temperatures, and sufficient moisture will lead to expansive wintry precipitation, primarily in the form of snow and blowing snow from the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley as the low moves northeast. A swath of heavy snow and near-blizzard conditions will be possible northwest of the storm track, which at this time is most likely to occur from the eastern Ozarks to the western Great Lakes Friday and Saturday.

Frigid temperatures and wind chills will catch up to the snow quickly. This will be an abnormal snow event for many cities at a more southern latitude where only marginally cold enough temperatures usually accompany the flakes. For example, the majority of snowfall in St. Louis will occur at temperatures lower than 20º. Subzero temperatures and wind chills will follow the precipitation for many days, leading to one of the coldest Christmas holidays in many years.

If you would like a personal forecast for an area you feel is not represented well by the maps or summary above, feel free to message me on Facebook or Twitter.

On the 12th day before Christmas, when all throughout the Midwest

Forecasts were teasing snow, but some say it's still a guess.

Poetic cuteness aside, significant changes are coming to the weather pattern in the next two weeks that will have many snow lovers rejoicing. Others will just be bothered by the bitter cold. Nonetheless, chances of a white Christmas are more than twice as high (compared to normal) this year from the Upper Midwest to the Southern Plains.

Confident in a Cold Christmas

Confidence is high in a colder-than-normal holiday period for much of the continental United States. Credible forecast models all project below-normal temperatures for the seven days surrounding December 25 in all locations east of the Rockies. However, they do differ in the extent and magnitude of extreme cold (compared to normal) during this period, which is also likely a factor of timing.

The three images below show 7-day average temperature anomalies from multiple runs of the GFS (American), ECMWF (European), and CFS (NOAA).

Temperatures are likely to be at least 10 to 15 degrees below normal from the Northern Plains to the Mid-South on or around Christmas Day. The numbers could be a lot colder than that in some areas, depending on snow cover and the track of multiple storm systems leading up to the holiday.

Here's an example long-range forecast for St. Louis from the GFS. The red box is drawn around a projected stretch of more than a week with subfreezing temperatures (day and night). According to this model, temperatures might even not top 20º for 72 hours straight!

Details on exactly how cold, and for how long, will become more apparent in the days to come. And those specifics will be significantly related to who gets snow or not.

Snow Chances Twice as High in Central U.S.

Chances of at least one inch of snow on the ground (or falling) on Christmas Day are more than two times as high as the 30-year average across a large area of the nation's midsection. The interactive graphic below compares the historical probability (1981-2020) to my 2022 forecast.

Historical probability of a white Christmas2022 white Christmas forecsat

Cities such as Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Nashville that historically have less than a 1 in 10 chance of a white Christmas have elevated probabilities of 20 to 30 percent this year. Chances are also more than two times as high (compared to normal) across the Ozarks and lower Ohio River Valley.

Winter Storm(s) Track and Timing Still Unknown

The Arctic air that has been bottled up in western Canada since Thanksgiving is about to be unleashed by the powerful storm system moving across the nation this week. It will then be driven farther south by another storm system next week (Dec 19-23), with potentially a third cold front delivering the "knock out" blow of arctic air deep into Dixie.

At this time, significant differences and inconsistencies in model solutions preclude me from posting details on when, where, and how much snow or ice may fall during the week of Christmas. I will be posting numerous times on those details as they become available, including credible modeling and road condition data from my employer Baron Weather.

But for now, just know that this year's Christmas will likely be much colder than normal (and possibly white) from Montana to Mississippi. Temperature anomalies along the west and east coasts are less certain, but an active jet stream pattern is sure to deliver bouts of cold and snow in those areas as well in the coming weeks.

Weather has been my passion since I was eight. Communicating it effectively is my life mission. 

However, my faith is increasingly frail in people, companies, and governments reacting appropriately to extreme weather threats. Furthermore, I believe the misuse of technology could someday be a significant factor in something terrible.

There is much more to unpack on this at a later time.

But first, some personal news.

"Mid-life crisis" is a bit strong. I would call this a strategic pivot to be part of a solution, rather than fight the problem.  

I busted my butt to be “that TV guy” for the first 10 years of my career in Mid-Missouri at ABC17 and FOX22. It was certainly a dream come true. In 2011, I stepped off the traditional market-chasing ladder to build something new in the academic and public media environment. 

Directing a team of meteorologists across two states, on more than 20 media stations, and through at least a dozen tropical storms or hurricanes was certainly the “pinch me I’m dreaming” kind of fulfillment. But after ten years in the public sector, it was time to take another risk. I believe the next piece to my life puzzle is equipping the front-line weather communicators with solutions that transcend platforms or methods.  

However, a huge dilemma clouded my journey. No job title in the traditional marketplace appealed to me. Trust me - I mulled over many. So, my next step was to consider the intangible pillars, such as happinessfreedom, and culture. Suddenly, my short list got a lot shorter. Call it coincidence or fate – doesn’t matter – literally the day after this epiphany, a door was opened.  

It's all about the people.

I now work for Baron Weather as a digital meteorologist, based in the beautiful “Rocket City” of Huntsville, Alabama.

We are a global company that provides superior weather solutions for critical decisions. We help industries such as insurance, aviation, and media respond to weather and climate threats confidently. My primary duty will be to produce content that validates our products and services in real-time or through case studies that highlight their efficacy and exclusivity. 

There are only a couple weather data providers in the world that are truly reliable, understand machines can’t do everything, and free of red tape. Baron is one of them! And it’s a HUGE win that the people feel like family, you can still draw on someone’s whiteboard (without scheduling a meeting), and get invited to the Christmas party planning committee your first week.   

Happiness!

Stormy, the most beautiful cat in the universe, and I are very happy in our new home. I can go hiking up a mountain just down the street, the city is booming with new transplants, and there are smart people everywhere! I also have a newfound appreciation for seasons. On so many levels. 

I hope to share more about that “life mission” part real soon, and how my new employer is advancing that cause. And to those of you who appreciate my “Huffman Heads Up” weather updates – they won’t stop. In fact, they will only get better. Thank you for your trust and support, wherever my unorthodox career leads me.  

It's time for liftoff to my next chapter!

The rumors have been flying for days. And some of them are true!

Another winter storm is taking aim on the Mid-South and Southeast this weekend.

For some, this will be the third winter wallop in two weeks after many wondered if winter would ever come.

Winter had been missing for much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation prior to the start of the new year. However, back-to-back winter storms have since swept through the same areas targeted by this weekend's event.

Forecast models have converged on two swaths of significant wintry precipitation arcing from the Midwest to the Southeast. I've listed them below, along with details on where I see the most noteworthy amounts occurring.

ALL SNOW: Minnesota to Missouri Friday & Saturday

The storm will start like a classic Alberta Clipper system, diving quickly to the south through the eastern Dakotas and Minnesota to Missouri.

Generally speaking, a 24-hour window of light to moderate snow will leave most areas with 2 to 6 inches, but higher amounts of 4 to 8 inches are possible roughly 100 miles either side of a line from Sioux Falls, SD to Kirksville, MO.

SNOW, SOME ICE: Arkansas to Carolinas Sunday

The storm will be strengthening as it dives into the Mid-South Saturday night, pulling in more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Confidence is much lower on amounts and location of the heaviest bands as the storm goes through this transition. This will likely result in gaps in heavier snowfall totals across portions of Missouri and Arkansas. The highest totals in these states, potentially up to six inches, will likely occur in the higher terrain of the Ozarks on either side of the state line.

Forecast map on more specific amounts across Mid-South will be available when confidence is high enough to be credible.

Snowfall rates will pick up quickly as the storm matures through the Tennessee Valley Sunday. This is also when a mixture of freezing rain and sleet will overspread northeast Georgia and the Upstate regions of South and North Carolina. North and west of where ice accumulations occur, a swath of 4 to 8 inches of snow is becoming increasingly likely. A consensus of the most reliable forecast data places this 100 miles either side of a line from just east of Memphis to Knoxville in Tennessee, then across the Appalachians from northeast Georgia to Pennsylvania.

Lighter amounts of wintry precipitation will also fall outside of the aforementioned areas, but with lesser confidence in how much. Dry air will lead to a sharp cutoff in snowfall amounts on the northern side of the storm track, whereas the timing of a changeover from rain to frozen precipitation will affect amounts on the southern side.

Snow will be sparse this Christmas east of the Rockies and south of I-90, and confidence is high that it will be unusually warm across the Southeast.

An onslaught of winter storms is likely to blanket much of the West with feet of snow over the next 12 days, especially in higher elevations. A white Christmas is also likely across the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and inland areas of New England from one or two winter storms prior to the 25th.

Cities where snow on Christmas Day is not that uncommon, such as Denver, Des Moines, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and Boston, are unlikely to see the magical morning this year. And farther south, a pre-Christmas storm may bring the potential for heavy rain or thunderstorms from the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley.

White Christmases have become less frequent across more than half of the nation, according to the new 1991-2020 climate normals.

There is some evidence climate change may be leading to warmer Decembers across the Southeast, making snow even more rare around the holiday. But the grinch to blame for this year's brown Christmas across the Midwest is an oscillating climate pattern known as La Niña. This cooling of the equatorial Pacific waters correlates with a wavier jet stream across North America that allows warmer air to surge north more frequently from the Gulf of Mexico.

Temperature outlook during the week of Christmas (NOAA Climate Prediction Center)

Long range teleconnection data suggests a change in the pattern may allow colder air to penetrate deeper into the center and eastern parts of the nation by early January, but above normal temperatures (overall) are likely to continue in the Southeast for much of the winter.

Update Friday morning

The "enhanced risk" of severe storms capable of producing a tornado or wind damage has been expanded north to include the greater St. Louis metro area, according to an update from the Storm Prediction Center Friday morning.

Latest forecast data also suggests the storms may form several hours later than originally posted in Missouri and Arkansas. My latest thinking is listed below.


Original post Thursday morning

A powerful cold front is expected to develop across the Central Plains Friday, igniting strong storms ahead of it as it encounters an increasingly unstable airmass across the Mid-South Friday night.

The strongest storms will be capable of producing a tornado or damaging wind gusts up to 60 mph. The risk is greatest after dark across portions of eastern Arkansas, southeast Missouri, northern Mississippi, and western Kentucky and Tennessee.

Forecast data suggests the first cells might not even develop along the front until after 4 pm CST Friday.

Confidence in this forecast is near average for two days prior to the event. The highest degree of uncertainty exists on the location of storm initiation Friday evening. This will depend on the forward motion of the cold front as it is matures and accelerates over the Ozarks Friday afternoon. Storm coverage may also be a bit disorganized or scattered at times, preventing this from becoming a widespread or larger scale event.

Bad weather will not affect most travelers on the way to their Thanksgiving destination this year.

Relatively quiet weather is expected across most of the nation, with only a few potential road bumps. If you experience a delay, it will likely be brief or possibly caused by other factors such as heavy volume.

In the Midwest and Central Plains, strong winds in the middle and lower levels of the atmosphere may result in some bumpy ascents and descents at airports such as Kansas City, St. Louis or Chicago. Showers will also be developing later in the evening and overnight hours along the Interstate 35, 44, and 55 corridors from Texas to Illinois. For most of my readers, this the only potential nuisance prior to Thanksgiving Day.

The interactive map below shows forecast wind gusts from one particular model, and is only a representation of what may happen.

The coolest air yet of the fall season has taken over the Southeast, but aside from needing a jacket for those pit stops, all roadtrips will be a "go". There will be little in the way of weather-related airline delays as well at all major hubs up and down the East Coast.

The only potential significant trouble spot this year just before Thanksgiving is in the Pacific Northwest, where an approaching storm could bring significant rain and snow to Seattle and Portland. However, much of this activity is expected to arrive overnight or during the day Thursday, after most travelers reach their destination.

I'll have an update posted on weather for your trip home or Black Friday shopping posted real soon. So please check back!

Subscribe
to our newsletter

CONTACT FORM HERE...

Oxygen works with any Contact Form Plugins
apartmentenvelope