Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) — As we inch closer to Christmas it is becoming increasingly likely that a powerful winter storm will have a significant impact on holiday travel across much of the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley on Thursday and Friday.

Key Takeaways

  • Widespread accumulating snow is likely Wednesday night through Friday afternoon
    • Exact amounts remain uncertain
  • Strong winds will lead to widespread blowing and drifting snow
    • 40 to 50 mph wind gusts / blizzard conditions possible
  • Significant impacts to travel expected
  • Bitter cold and dangerous wind chills likely Thursday night through Christmas Eve

The storm system is expected to start impacting Central Illinois Wednesday night and continue into Friday evening, though the worst is expected Thursday and Friday. As the storm gets closer, confidence is growing that this storm will have a big, if not significant, impact on holiday travel on Thursday and Friday.

Latest model guidance continues to shift the track of the storm further west bringing greater impacts to Central Illinois. You can see this in the GEFS model since Friday, when it originally had the low-pressure system centered over the east coast and now it’s centered over the Indiana/Ohio border. All images in the loop below are valid at 12 am Friday Central time.

This western shift not only brings the heaviest snow across Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, it also puts Central Illinois in position to experience very strong winds and potential blizzard conditions as the storm intensifies Thursday night and Friday.

Extreme Cold and Dangerous Wind Chills

Arctic air will push into Central Illinois Thursday with the worst of the cold settling across the region on Friday and Saturday. High temperatures both days will be in the single digits with lows below zero. Wind chill values Thursday night, Friday, and Friday night are expected to drop near -20° but could drop below -30° if the storm track shifts any further west and the winds intensify.

The storm could also produce power outages which could make it difficult for households to stay warm as the frigid temperatures move into the area.

An interesting note – The current forecast for Christmas Day calls for highs in the upper single digits and lower teens. This would make this the coldest Christmas Day since the mid 1980s.

What Can You Do Now?

While specific snowfall amounts and wind speeds/gusts remain uncertain, confidence is high that we’ll see widespread accumulating snow and strong winds which will likely have significant impacts to holiday travel. So, here’s what you can do to prepare…

  • Prepare for holiday travel impacts on Thursday and Friday
    • Change your travel time to avoid traveling those days
  • Locate cold weather gear such as a heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarfs, snow boots, and snow pants
  • Cover exterior spigots and exposed pipes
  • Put an emergency kit in your vehicle and gas it up before the storm arrives
  • Continue to monitor the latest forecast from a reliable source
    • Do not pay much attention to context lacking model snow forecasts on social media