DC region prepares for temperature change, icy conditions as winter storm approaches

As the D.C. region prepares to enter the ice box before the holiday weekend, the same cold blast is already setting records in the West. Could D.C. be next to dig into the record books?

The D.C. region prepares for the arrival of a historic winter storm this holiday weekend, treating roads and calling on all drivers to be prepared for icy road conditions.

D.C. and Baltimore will escape the worst of the storm that barreled through the U.S. this week, but steady rain for most of Thursday will make roads slick before frigid arctic air sweeps in Friday, threatening a widespread refreeze.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District Snow Team plan to have 28 salt trucks on standby starting Friday morning in preparation for icy surfaces and light snow Friday morning.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertDC updates and to check on vulnerable neighbors. Those living in D.C. can also receive updates on road conditions on AlertDC’s Twitter page.

The Virginia Department of Transportation advises drivers to avoid travel on Thursday, primarily through the western regions of Virginia along the Interstate 81 corridor.

“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 Stanardsville and Harrisonburg early Thursday,” VDOT said in a news release.

VDOT crews pretreated roadways and interstates Wednesday in anticipation of the weather event.

“Motorists, if traveling, should pack an emergency kit and blankets, and have mobile devices fully charged in the event of a breakdown or emergency,” VDOT said.

In Maryland, transportation department crews completed anti-icing operations in Allegany and Washington counties, which, starting Thursday at 4 a.m., will be under a winter storm warning. The National Weather Service also issued winter weather advisories for Garrett and Washington counties beginning at 4 a.m. Thursday.

“While we are expecting rain for much of the state, there is a potential for icy conditions in the higher mountain elevations,” Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration Administrator Tim Smith said in a statement. “So, we encourage folks with travel plans heading west to be extremely careful and, if possible, delay their trips a few hours.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state activated its emergency response operations in anticipation of the winter weather. He called for Marylanders to be prepared and adjust their plans as necessary.

Ahead of the winter storm that is set to enter our region, we have activated emergency response operations statewide. This will be a two-phase event, with the first wave of weather coming in overnight, and the second on Friday into Christmas Eve.

— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) Dec. 22, 2022

Record-setting storm approaching?

As the D.C. region prepares to enter the ice box before the holiday weekend, the same cold blast is already setting records in the West. Could D.C. be next to dig into the record books?

The cold front rocketed through the Rockies and Front Range Wednesday with such a drastic drop in temperatures that records are being set. The National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, indicated that Denver International Airport dropped from 42 degrees to 5 degrees (37-degree drop) in one hour when the front came through earlier today.

If the data is confirmed, it would be the largest one-hour temperature drop in history for the area. The previous record is a drop from 41 to 6 degrees (35-degree temperature drop) in one hour during the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2007.

Preliminary data at DIA shows the observed 37F temperature drop in 1 hour (42 to 5F) would be the biggest one hour drop in that ASOS history. #COwx

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) Dec. 22, 2022

That same front is poised to sweep to the East Coast later this week. Current trends indicate the cold front won’t lose any momentum as it pushes across the D.C. region Friday morning.

What will it take for Washington to set a record for largest temperature drop? The current record for fastest temperature drop in 24 hours is a loss of 47 degrees from Dec. 22 at 6:51 a.m. to 24 hours later on Dec. 23. The temperature dropped from 67 to 20 degrees in that time span.

Current projections show temperatures late Thursday will be in the middle 50s with the front expected to arrive between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Friday morning and drop to the lower teens by late Friday evening. Theoretically, the temperature could drop 43 degrees in just 24 hours from late Thursday to late Friday.

This would tie for the fifth largest drop in temperatures over a 24-hour period for Reagan National Airport. The other two times when the temperature dropped 43 degrees in 24-hours include Jan. 19-20, 1996 and Feb. 7-8, 1951.

A list of the top 10 largest temperature drops in a 24-hour time span for Reagan National Airport. (Courtesy IEM)

The best way to dress if you have to go outside during the upcoming Arctic blast is with multiple layers because that traps body heat far more efficiently than one thick layer.


Thursday: Morning wintry mix possible, but steady rain by noon. Turning milder, with highs in the mid 40s to around 50.

Friday: Rain in the morning, then becoming windy with plunging temperatures. Morning highs near 50, falling to below freezing by evening.

Saturday: Filtered sunshine. Bitterly cold and blustery, with highs in the low to mid-20s. Wind chills near 10.

Current conditions

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this report. 


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