Winter roars back with bitter cold & snow possible

Ready or not...winter is set to return in a pretty big way later this week. Since the bitter cold outbreak of mid-December (which was technically still late fall) our region has largely been spared winter's fury.

What You Need to Know:

-Winter cold returns Wednesday night and remains locked in through early next week. Coldest period is expected to be Saturday and Sunday.

-There is a chance of light snow Friday morning. Amounts likely to be light, but timing during the early could be an issue for morning commuters. School delays not out of the question.

-At this time Saturday Night - Sunday snowfall looks less likely for the region with storm track favored south of our region. However, it is still far enough away in the forecast and geographically close enough that we need to watch it closely.

The past 12 days in Washington, D.C. have come in at above normal temperatures -- and so far only a trace of snow has been reported at the Reagan National Airport. Following one last mild day on Wednesday, that streak will come to an end as a strong front ushers in the first official Arctic air mass of the winter to the D.C. region and beyond. So expansive is the cold air, that by the weekend, at least one point in each of the Lower 48 states is expected to fall below freezing at some point during the day.

As for how long the cold air last, various weather models suggest that it will be locked in for about 5-6 days before the cold pattern breaks by the middle of next week. The coldest period may in fact be the weekend, when it seems the vast majority of our region will struggle to get high temperatures above the freezing mark while evening lows fall into the teens and lower twenties. Winds are likely to be on the gusty side both Wednesday night and then again Friday night into Saturday. At their coldest, wind chills in the lower teens and even a few single digits are possible. The key question of course is will the cold come with any snow?

While neither is a guarantee -- there are two opportunities for snow over the next five days. The first comes on Friday morning, when a developing area of low pressure off the Atlantic coastline will throw moisture which may interact with an Arctic boundary crossing the Appalachian Mountains. This system has a very clipper-like look to it, meaning very light snow that does not last very long. This means snowfall amounts are unlikely to impress, however, timing could end up being the bigger factor here with the majority of weather models showing in the hours just preceding the early morning rush. With ground temperatures by Friday morning expected to be cold enough for snow to stick, this could potentially lead to some extra tricky travel and even a few school delays on Friday. It is worth keeping an eye on as it may be our best shot at snow this week, so keeping checking back for the latest information.

The second snow chance would be over the weekend -- likely Saturday into Sunday if it was to happen. At this point, that's a pretty big 'if' as computer models over the past several days have kept the storm to the south of our region. Currently, we at FOX 5 are leaving snow out of the forecast for the weekend. However, the track of the storm remains regionally close enough that it is still worth watching. A slight jog north with the storm track could lead to major changes in the forecast. If this type of storm were to come up the coastline, it is the type that would bring more significant snow accumulations. But as things stand as of this moment (Tuesday, January 3, 2017) this does not appear to be the case. We will of course keep you posted on if this changes.

Enjoy the brief warm up tomorrow -- but keep the winter coat handy for the end of the week.

You will definitely need it!