Arctic blast brings frigid temperatures, gusty conditions to DC area

The Washington, D.C. area is experiencing a blast of arctic air that could potentially bring some of the coldest December temperatures to the region that we've seen in nearly 30 years.

The arctic boundary moved into the region Friday morning and brought a burst of snow to the area.

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By the afternoon, gusty winds, plummeting temperatures, and wind chills near zero had set into the area, and we could see single digit temperatures across the D.C. region overnight, for the first time in five years.

Wind Chill Advisories in place across the area could make it feel like -5 to -15 degrees throughout the nighttime hours. The arctic front is also expected to spawn a widespread flash freeze across the region, as Thursday and Friday morning's heavy rain could freeze over during the night.

Potential single digit temperatures are expected for the area by Saturday morning. Expect highs near 24 degrees Saturday and highs near 29 degrees Sunday.

Lisa Farbstein with the Transportation Security Administration says it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to travel this weekend across the country. Farbstein says travel numbers close to pre-pandemic levels were expected but have been reduced due to the numerous cancellations associated with the weather.

Utility crews across the region are preparing for the worst as damaging winds could also cause power outages.

Only a few closings and delays were reported Friday as most of the area’s schools were already closed for winter break.

The winter weather system that will bring the dangerously cold temperatures to the D.C. region are expected to bring blizzard conditions that will likely intensify into a bomb cyclone to parts of the Great Lakes and Midwest Friday into the weekend.

Travel conditions are expected to become extremely difficult, if not impossible, in many of the areas impacted by the winter weather this weekend. Here are some tips for drivers who must hit the roads this holiday weekend.

Packing an emergency kit before you hit the road:

  • Abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves), and blankets
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone, charger and power bank

Tips from AAA to help you stay safe while driving in the ice and snow:

  • Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
  • Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

If your vehicle does become stuck in the snow or ice:

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
  • Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle and get lost in blowing snow.
  • Do not overexert yourself trying to dig or push your vehicle out of the snow. Keep sand, kitty litter or traction mats in your vehicle to help the vehicle’s tires gain traction on ice and snow. Even a vehicle’s floor mats can help in a jam.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle when the engine is running.
  • If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.