A bitterly cold arctic outbreak is setting up to target Iowa as we head into the middle of the week and the heart of holiday travel before Christmas weekend.
First, a quick shot of snow will cross Central Iowa Monday afternoon into the evening. One to two inches of snow is expected, with the possibility of some light freezing drizzle in the evening as the snow tapers off. This could have a big impact on what will likely be a slow Monday evening commute.
Then, Wednesday night will see a powerful cold front diving southeast across the Midwest, which will plunge temperatures to their coldest of the season so far, along with very windy conditions, that could push wind chill factors as low as -30 Thursday and Friday.
Overnight temperatures dipping to the teens could be pushed all the way to the Gulf Coast and panhandle of Florida by Friday night into Saturday.
In addition to the blast of arctic air and winds, the strength of the front and accompanying system will likely develop at least some snow, with the potential for heavy accumulating snow as well.
While it is too early to talk about specific totals, with the expected strength of winds, any snow at all could paralyze travel with similar results to this Thursday, or much worse if snow totals trend higher.
Those that may have holiday travel plans during the second half of the week should monitor the forecast closely, and begin to formulate a backup plan in case the forecast does not begin to change. It is not out of the question, depending on the track and severity of snow that travel could become nearly impossible over much of the state from late Wednesday night through at least early Friday.
While it will depend somewhat on how much snow is left behind, temperatures do look to at least warm slightly for the weekend, though it could still be one of the coldest Christmas Eve and Christmas Day forecasts of the past decade.
Des Moines has seen 8 of the last 10 Christmas Days come with a high over 32 degrees, and has not had a high in the single digits on December 25 since it was 8 in 2000.