How the upcoming arctic outbreak compares to previous cold shots

It won’t break records, but it will be dangerously frigid
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 12:14 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - To put it simply, the impending intrusion of arctic air will be dangerous and significant. It’s not every winter that temperatures fall into the teens and wind chills down close to zero. Those will both happen in the days leading up to Christmas.

The worst of the arctic blast will be from Thursday night through Christmas morning. Low temperatures will be in the teens and afternoon highs near or below freezing Friday and Saturday. It’s very possible much of the area goes at least 48 hours at or below freezing.

Wind chills will be crippling for this part of the country near or below zero in most spots Friday morning. Subzero wind chills are unlikely Saturday morning, but they will fall back down into the single digits to near zero.

Wind chills will be in the single digits and below zero Friday morning.
Wind chills will be in the single digits and below zero Friday morning.(WSFA 12 News)

Over the last 20 years there have only been two hours in which Montgomery officially observed a subzero wind chill. So if the airport does see its wind chill value drop below zero Friday morning like some models indicate, it would be extremely rare and highly unusual.

According to our friends at the NWS office in Birmingham this air mass will be the coldest to affect Central Alabama since 2018. It will be the most prolonged cold event of this magnitude since at least 2014. Even more, this will be the coldest December air mass in invade the region since 1989!

Despite all of that it’s unlikely that Montgomery breaks any records. That’s because record lows for the December 23-26 period are in the single digits. Record low high temperatures are also unlikely to fall. Those are in the 20s for this stretch.

While records won't fall, this arctic air outbreak will be historic in Central Alabama.
While records won't fall, this arctic air outbreak will be historic in Central Alabama.(WSFA 12 News)

By the time all is said and done, Montgomery will likely finish in either 2nd or 3rd place when it comes to the record books between Friday morning’s temperatures and Christmas day’s temperatures. So not record-breaking, but certainly historic cold.

It’s the kind of cold that we aren’t used to around here. Honestly it’s difficult to put into words just how significant the cold air will be. Infrastructure, vehicles, people, and pets in Central Alabama are not built for 48 consecutive hours below freezing.

  • Pipes will burst if precautions are not taken
  • Vehicles will likely be very angry, especially Friday and Saturday
  • Frostbite and hypothermia are possible if you do not adequately bundle up
  • Pets will suffer if left outside

Those are just some of the potential significant and highly impactful affects of this cold snap. So please use today and tomorrow to prepare as the brutal cold will surge into the state quickly Thursday night.

It’s very possible that when you go to bed Thursday evening the temperatures will be in the 50s, but when you wake up Friday it will feel like it’s near zero! Even with a rapid temperature drop like that there won’t be much of a black ice and slick travel issue due to the fact that not much rain is forecast to fall before the temperature drop occurs. That’s at least some good news!

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