A high-impact winter storm will likely affect Northern Ohio beginning early Thursday morning and linger into early Christmas Day. Low pressure will develop in the Southern Plains on Thursday morning and then slide northeast into Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan on Friday morning. The storm system will rapidly intensify causing multiple issues for Friday and Saturday across the area.
Rush-hour impact Friday morning
Scattered rain showers are likely Thursday and Thursday night, putting down a layer of liquid on the roads and bridges. A strong arctic cold front will race east through Ohio between 4 a.m. Thursday morning and 9 a.m. Friday morning. Temperatures will fall rapidly from the 40s into the 20s and teens during the morning rush hour, causing rapid freezing of any water on untreated surfaces.
Possibly a bit of calm
A brief burst of snow (1" or less) will accompany the cold front early Friday. Winds will also be gusty at 30-40 mph Thursday night and Friday morning. Travel could be difficult due to icy conditions for the Friday morning commute. We will likely then have several hours of dry, cold and windy weather through mid-to-late afternoon Friday. This could allow travelers to hit the road during this brief window. Keep in mind, blizzard-like conditions will be underway Friday across Western Ohio, Northern Indiana, Northern Illinois and Michigan.
Wrap-around snow plus 50+ mph wind gusts will arrive by late afternoon or evening Friday across the northern half of our viewing area. Conditions will deteriorate rapidly Friday into Saturday morning with blowing and drifting snow and dangerous wind chills likely most everywhere across Northern Ohio.
Lake-enhanced snow could make travel very tough on I-90 heading east out of Cleveland. As low pressure pulls to the northeast on Saturday morning, most of the snow will end quickly. Lake effect snow will likely set up across the primary snowbelt with continued snow accumulations across Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties through Sunday where squalls persist. Elsewhere, windy cold weather remains with highs in the single digits and lower teens thru Christmas Day and wind chills to -15 degrees.
WHAT WE ARE CONFIDENT ABOUT:
1.) ARCTIC COLD. With a rapid temperature drop and a flash freeze Friday morning.
2.) VERY HIGH WINDS. Gusting above 50 mph at times creating wind chills well below zero thru Christmas Day.
WHAT WE ARE LESS CONFIDENT ABOUT:
1.) POSITION OF THE LOW PRESSURE. A strong bomb cyclone over Lake Erie would be much worse for us than a strong storm over Southern Ontario.
2) SNOWFALL TOTALS. Once again, we are NOT on the favorable side of the storm for the heaviest snowfall amounts. Still, several inches of snow are possible for all of us across Northern Ohio by midday Christmas Day with areas of the Snowbelt east of Cleveland likely to see the heaviest accumulations.
Now is the time to prepare.
Follow the News 5 Weather Team: