Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) — The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for all of Central Illinois from Thursday morning through Late Friday night. Blizzard conditions are possible with widespread accumulating snow and wind gusts as high as 50 mph.

Key Takeaways

  • Widespread accumulating snow is likely Wednesday night through Friday afternoon
    • Exact amounts remain uncertain
    • Heaviest amounts along and north of I-74
  • 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. Blizzard conditions are possible, if not likely, across Central Illinois Thursday night and Friday.

The storm is expected to track from the Texas/Oklahoma border to the lower peninsula of Michigan, clipping the southern part of Illinois and strengthening in the process. This will bring a period of moderate to heavy snow to Central Illinois along with very strong winds as the low pressure center strengthens to our east.

It’s still too early to make a snow accumulation forecast, but right now, the heaviest snow is expected to fall along and north of I-74. At the end of the day it’s not the amount of snow that matters, but the prolonged period of 40-50 mph wind gusts that will cause the problems.

Regardless of snow accumulations, travel will be dangerous if not impossible across Central Illinois Thursday night and Friday. The majority of the snow that falls will be very powdery which will blow around very easily. Those who were planning to travel either day need to consider moving their travel date to Wednesday or Saturday, though areas of blowing snow are still expected Saturday.

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° at times.

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