Winter Storm Elliott throws wrench into Christmas travel plans across US

Winter Storm Elliott in Ohio

Winter Storm Elliott has thrown a wrench into travel plans for Christmas 2022 across the nation.

“The main concerns are coastal flooding, wind, then the passage of a very strong cold front which will bring rain/ a potential shot of snow on its backside and a possible flash freeze,” the National Weather Service said in its Friday morning forecast discussion. “Wind advisories are in effect for the whole region through Friday evening as are wind chill warnings for Friday afternoon through early Saturday morning.”

The powerful storm could bring historically low temperatures through the weekend, resulting in additional flight cancellations and power outages, after more than 3,700 flights in the U.S. were canceled and 2,900 more were delayed Friday, although New Jersey was not among those places buried by winter.

Up to one inch of snow accumulation is forecast for areas of northwest New Jersey, along a line consistent with Interstate 95.

“Expect there will be widespread winds gusting 40-50 mph through the day Friday, first out of the south ahead of the front and then sharply turning westerly behind it,” said the weather service, where seasoned officials reacted like kids at Christmas when the snow finally reached the Garden State.

“The first flakes of the season have arrived at our office! Please use extreme caution is you are traveling today as temperatures plummet below freezing. Icy spots on roads may appear wet,” said the National Weather Service at Mount Holly. “Bridges and elevated surfaces will be the first to freeze!”

Predictions for the next five days.

A powerful cold front continues to head toward the East Coast according to the National Weather Service, which said New Jersey will be seeing deteriorating conditions as the day goes on today as the cold front moves from west to east.

Gale Warnings remain in effect for all coastal waters from Sandy Hook to Manasquan Inlet then on to Little Egg Inlet and a Small Craft Advisory for Delaware Bay continues.

Snow streaks across this image from the National Weather Service station for Philadelphia at Mount Holly, NJ.

Elliott has brought blizzard conditions to some areas and is strengthing into what could become a bomb cyclone today. The storm has been blamed for at least eight deaths nationwide, and as its impacts pivot eastward, power outages and flight cancellations are climbing.

Many places are more than 30°F colder than yesterday!

Blizzard warnings were issued for parts of the country as the winter storm pounds the nation with snow, and high winds.

“As of 9:30 AM ET December 23, 2022: Over 200 million people, or roughly 60% of the U.S. population, are under some form of winter weather warnings or advisories across the U.S. today,” said the National Weather Service.

W​inter Storm Elliott intensified into a bomb cyclone near the Great Lakes, bringing high winds, snow and blizzard conditions from the Northern Plains to western and upstate New York.

“It’s a measure of rapid strengthening of a storm, and it does look like the storm will achieve that ‘bomb-cyclone’ status because it’s going to strengthen pretty rapidly,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva, who defined a bomb cyclone as the dropping of a storm’s atmospheric pressure by 24 millibars in 24 hours.

E​lliott is also bringing significant Great Lakes lakeshore flooding, coastal flooding to parts of the Northeast seaboard, and dangerous travel impacts from a flash freeze to parts of the South and East.

A strong Arctic cold front moved through the New Jersey region accompanied by briefly heavy showers, some lightning, and strong gusty winds of 40 to 50 mph.

Southerly winds shifted to the west and Arctic cold will begin to move into the region, with westerly winds 20 to 30 mph and gusting 40 to 45 mph.

Temperatures rapidly dropped, as much as 15 to 20 degrees in just a few hours, and fell below freezing as wind chills in the single digits to around 10 above zero.

If venturing outside, residents were warned to be prepared for rapidly changing conditions, and dressing appropriately.

Severe flooding inundated much of the Shore area at levels not seen in some locations since Superstorm Sandy, according to Alex Staarmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.

Staarmann said coastal flooding and plunging temperatures are likely to create dangerous ice on the roads, perilous flash freezes, and bitter cold temperatures for Christmas weekend.

The water crested at 8.89 feet at Sandy Hook, the highest level since Superstorm Sandy, but with much less than the 14.4 feet of surf that devastated the beachfront national park in October 2021.

Major flood levels were also reported in Keansburg at 9.18 feet, Manasquan at 7.37 feet, and Sea Bright, where the water crested at 7.3 feet.

More from the National Weather Service:

An immense winter storm that has brought a frigid blast to much of the CONUS along with impactful winter precipitation will persist in tracking across the eastern U.S. today. Winter weather hazards remain in effect from the Canadian border south to the Rio Grande, Gulf Coast and central Florida Peninsula while spanning from the Pacific Northwest to the Eastern Seaboard.

The National Weather Service’s Watch Warning graphic depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever. As of early Friday morning, over 240 million of people within the United States are under some form of winter weather warning or advisory.

This includes 181 million for wind chill warnings or advisories, over 11 million for blizzard warning, 58 million for winter storm warnings, and over 500 thousand for ice storm warnings. Travel has already been affected by this storm along with reported power outages. This system will have increasingly widespread impacts to travel going into the busy holiday travel time late this week, along with the potential for power outages from the expected high winds, heavy snows, significant icing and overall increased power consumption in places.

This powerful front allowed temperatures to plummet 30 to 50+ degrees over a short period for a vast portion of the country. Widespread record low maximum temperature values are possible today from the Lower Mississippi Valley, northeastward into the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and stretching across large sections of the east from the Southeast, through the Southern to Central Appalachians and into the Mid-Atlantic.

In addition to the very cold temperatures, high winds in the wake of the front will produce dangerous wind chill readings across nearly all of the central to eastern U.S.

A developing low pressure system along the arctic front over the Midwest/Great Lakes region will produce widespread heavy snows from portions of the Midwest into the Great Lakes on today. Lakes Effect snowfall can be expected for the favored downwind locations of all of the Great Lakes on Saturday as the very cold arctic air streams across the
Great Lakes.

Blizzard warnings and Winter Storm warnings are currently in effect from the Great Lakes, Mid West, Middle to Upper Mississippi Valley and into the Northern Plains. Temperatures will moderate this weekend for portions of the Northern Rockies and High Plains resulting in nearly 40 to 60-degree warm up.

Parts of the Pacific Northwest had icing late Thursday night that persist into this morning as moisture from the Pacific falls into low-level arctic air currently entrenched across this area.

This low-level arctic air is the western extent of the arctic airmass centered across the central portion of the nation. It does appear that this low-level arctic air over the Pacific Northwest will warm sufficiently by late Friday night along coastal sections to diminish the freezing rain threat. The freezing rain threat will continue, however, inland through the Columbia River Valley and across areas east of the Cascades through much of Saturday.

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