BUCKHANNON – Those hoping for a white Christmas could get their wish this weekend, although along with the snow will come brutally cold temperatures that are expected to plunge into the low single digits on Christmas Eve.
North-central West Virginia is forecast to miss the bulk of the snowfall that will be blanketing the Midwest, but mild temperatures on Thursday afternoon will quickly drop below freezing. As the cold air moves into the area Thursday night and Friday, rain is expected to change to snow, which could be heavy on Friday.
The cold temperatures prompted the National Weather Service to issue a wind chill watch that runs from Thursday night through Saturday afternoon.
“A strong disturbance first brings a round of freezing rain and some light ice accumulations along the eastern West Virginia mountains on Thursday,” the National Weather Service says. “A cold front drags in extremely cold temperatures on Friday, producing flash freeze conditions over wet roads, sidewalks, bridges, and surfaces to produce treacherous travel conditions. Snow showers will also impede on travel conditions on Friday.”
The wind chill will be dangerously cold over the weekend, the NWS warns.
“A strong cold front will bring very cold temperatures and gusty winds Friday and Saturday,” the NWS says. “Dangerously cold wind chills with wind gusts up to 40 mph are possible. Wind chills as low as 25 below zero.”
At those temperatures, frostbite could develop within minutes.
“The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 20 minutes,” the NWS cautions as part of the wind chill watch. “Gusty winds could bring down tree branches.”
Currently, only up to about two inches of snow are expected locally, but the quick transition to artic weather will make roadways slippery.
“Slow down and use caution while traveling,” the NWS advises.
Governor Jim Justice has declared a State of Preparedness in all 55 counties in advance of the winter weather.
“The National Weather Service predicts heavy snow, freezing rains, dangerous wind chills, and strong winds beginning Wednesday, December 21, 2022, and continuing throughout the week and into the coming holiday weekend,” reads a press release from the governor’s office. “The declaration directs the State Emergency Operations Center and its partner agencies to prepare to respond to the impending winter storm, posturing personnel and resources to respond quickly should an emergency develop.”
Despite the holidays, additional personnel have been called in to work over the weekend, the governor’s office said.
“The EMD Watch Center has increased staffing through the weekend to perform around-the-clock monitoring of the weather system and will notify leaders if local emergency management agencies request assistance,” the press release notes.
The low temperature forecast Friday in Buckhannon is just 2 degrees above zero, according to the NWS. Christmas Eve will see a high of 14 degrees, with the low again in the mid-single digits.
Christmas Day is forecast to be sunny but cold, with a high of 21. Monday will remain cold and clear with a high of 32, and temperatures are expected to finally get above freezing again on Tuesday, with a high of 39.