A strong Christmas Day storm has created blizzard-like conditions across parts of the south and spawned multiple tornadoes near the Gulf Coast. This storm moves into the mid-Atlantic on Wednesday; here’s what to expect.
Update #1 — December 26, 10:45 am
While wintry precipitation – mostly in the form of sleet, freezing rain, and now some snow – is assaulting the roads of western Virginia, rain has been falling across eastern Virginia.
This morning’s update from the Storm Prediction Center has reduced the overall area of severe weather concern from last night, the Richmond metro is still on the western edge of the threat area.
These two maps represent the risk for severe thunderstorm winds (58 mph or greater) and tornadoes.
There are plenty of factors working against severe storm development today: the widespread rain and low clouds will stabilize the atmosphere plenty, and being on the western edge of the threat area means that conditions are more favorable farther east. Anything that does develop around Richmond will likely be quite isolated. That said, it’s hard to predict exactly who’s going to see the storms and when, so it’s important that everyone remain aware.
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It seems like it just wouldn’t be Christmas without some sort of weather threat. In the past couple years, it’s been snow that’s the threat; however, this year, it’s severe thunderstorms that will be the issue.
This is the latest outlook from the Storm Prediction Center for tomorrow. The contours represent the percentage probability of severe weather happening within 25 miles of a point inside the contour. The hatched area delineates a risk for significant severe weather (extremely high wind gusts or large hail, or EF-2+ intensity tornadoes) within 10 miles of a point.
This all comes from a storm system that brought severe weather across the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, with multiple tornado reports across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. As of this writing, the preliminary count for the day is 19, which would set a record for Christmas Day tornados; the previous record of 12 was set in 1969. Those twisters left 17 injured and killed another. So far 7 injuries have been reported with the storms today; that number is expected to increase as the damage from these storms is surveyed in detail.
The intersection of a warm and cold front will be the focal point for severe weather through the day on Wednesday. Especially later in the afternoon, any discrete storms that can develop along and/or ahead of the cold front have the chance to become severe, with wind gusts in excess of 58 mph, small hail, and the potential or one or two isolated tornadoes.
Yes, I just used the t-word in late December. Most of the danger will be limited to the eastern part of the Carolinas, where the threat for severe weather and especially tornaods will be much higher than in Virginia. That said, despite the low potential, the danger remains. Do what’s necessary to keep you and your family safe.
I’ll try to keep this updated as the day goes on with any specifics about what’s happening as the system and the latest models change.