(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A major storm affecting most of the eastern U.S. and midwest is set to ramp up tomorrow, making for hazardous holiday travel.
Ahead of the storm, the Virginia Dept. of Transportation sent a clear message this afternoon: start your trip now, if you can.
The storm will mostly bring the D.C. area copious amounts of rain starting Thursday morning, along with gusty winds and bitter cold temperatures on Friday. Frozen precipitation beyond some possible snow flurries is not expected in Arlington, but points west and north will likely see snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Along I-81 and the Blue Ridge, the storm is expected to be a high-impact event, and travel on Thursday is “not advised,” VDOT says.
More from a VDOT press release, below.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is advising motorists traveling in and through Virginia to adjust their holiday travel ahead of winter weather expected in parts of the Commonwealth beginning Wednesday night and continuing through Friday.
Travelers are advised to shift holiday travel to Wednesday if possible. Travel on Thursday is not advised, especially through the western regions of Virginia along the Interstate 81 corridor, to avoid potentially hazardous conditions created by forecasted winter weather.
According to current forecasts, wintry precipitation is expected to arrive as soon as 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21 in the southwestern regions of the state, and move northward through the western third of the state, and into portions of northern Virginia through Thursday. Periods of heavy snow are expected along the northern sections of I-81 and the mountain passes including Interstate 64 over Afton Mountain and Rt. 33 between Standardsville and Harrisonburg early Thursday. Temperatures are expected to drop rapidly through the day on Friday leading to the potential for refreeze in areas where the pavement remains wet.
VDOT crews are pretreating roadways and interstates today in anticipation of the weather event.
With extreme low temperatures expected to move in Friday, motorists, if traveling, should pack an emergency kit and blankets, and have mobile devices fully charged in the event of a breakdown or emergency.
“Please continue to monitor forecasts closely as forecasts can improve or worsen quickly,” VDOT said in a separate advisory. “Drivers should expect roads to be impacted Thursday and Friday… Treat anything that looks wet as if it could be icy, especially bridges, ramps, overpasses, and elevated surfaces. If there is snow or ice on roadways, travel is hazardous.”
The transportation agency is currently pretreating roads and “will begin deploying trucks early Thursday morning to treat roads as needed.”
“Adjust travel plans and avoid all nonessential travel during the height of the storm,” VDOT said “This helps to avoid deteriorating conditions and to allow crews room to work.”
A Flood Watch, meanwhile, has been issued for the D.C. area ahead of the rain.
322 PM EST Wed Dec 21 2022
…FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE THURSDAY NIGHT…
* WHAT…Flooding caused by excessive rainfall is possible.
* WHERE…DC and portions of Maryland and northern Virginia, including the following areas: District of Columbia. In Maryland, Anne Arundel, Cecil, Central and Southeast Howard, Central and Southeast Montgomery, Prince Georges, Southeast Harford and Southern Baltimore. In northern Virginia, Arlington/Falls Church/Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William/Manassas/Manassas Park.
* WHEN…From Thursday morning through late Thursday night.
* IMPACTS…Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations. Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…
– Moderate rainfall is expected Thursday into Thursday evening, with rainfall totals of one to two inches. This may lead to isolated instances of flooding, especially in urban and poor drainage areas.
You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible Flood Warnings. Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop.
VDOT released the following timeline of expected conditions in Northern Virginia and western zones through Christmas.
Thursday Morning (Dec. 22)
- Precipitation will begin from southwest to northeast during or just prior to rush hour.
- Areas along and west of the Blue Ridge (Western Loudoun and points west, extending southwest through Roanoke) will likely experience a start as a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
- Northern Virginia will see a chance for a wintry mix before a quick change to rain.
- Low temperatures will be around freezing during the early commute and will rise into the upper 30s into the mid-morning hours.
- Reduce your speeds and be especially careful on bridges, ramps and overpasses during this time.
Thursday Afternoon (Dec. 22)
- Areas of rain are likely throughout Northern Virginia, with over an inch of rain possible.
- Areas farther west will see a changeover from wintry mix to rain into the mid-afternoon.
- Temperatures will gradually rise into the 40s for Northern Virginia but will likely hang in the mid 30s west of the Blue Ridge.
- Drivers should watch out for slick roads west and possible ponding.
Thursday Evening and Night (Dec. 22)
- Areas of rain will linger after sunset but will taper off closer to midnight.
- Temperatures will range from the mid 30s west to closer to 50 degrees around DC.
- Winds will become breezy out of the east-southeast gusting to 25 mph at times.
Friday Morning (Dec. 23)
- Areas of rain will develop early Friday morning (6-9 a.m.) ahead of the arctic cold front.
- Temperatures will range from the 30s west of the Blue Ridge to near 50 degrees closer to I-95.
- Temperatures will plummet into 20s around noon, so any residual moisture on the roadways will have the potential to turn icy.
- Confidence is low for iciness but it’s high enough on a big travel day that we want you to be extra cautious and avoid travel or change travel plans if possible.
- Winds will also become an issue, gusting from 40-50 mph at times as the cold front moves through into the afternoon.
- Drivers should watch for possible downed trees and debris in the road, and be extra cautious on bridges and overpasses.
Friday Afternoon (Dec. 23)
- Precipitation will exit into the afternoon and the wind and cold will be the main concern.
- Temperatures will likely be in the teens along the Blue Ridge and west and low 20s closer to I-95 into the afternoon.
- Factor in the winds which will continue to gust from 30-40+ mph and it will likely feel like the single digits closer to DC and possibly below zero for the I-81 corridor.
- If you’re on the interstate and need assistance, please dial #77 and ask for a Safety Service Patroller.
Friday Evening and Night (Dec. 24)
- Cold and breezy conditions will remain into Friday night with lows in the teens closer to DC and possibly single digits along and west of the Blue Ridge.
- Wind chills will likely be in the single digits with winds still gusting to 20-25 mph at times.
The Weekend (Dec. 24 – 25)
- The holiday weekend will be partly cloudy to mostly sunny and cold both days with lows in the teens and highs in the upper 20s each day.
- Winds will be breezy at times Saturday but breezes should diminish into Sunday.
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