Unseasonably cold weather for the East Coast on Thanksgiving Day

Temperatures dove below freezing on Wednesday night, as an arctic air mass (pictured in blue) surged into the Northeastern U.S. from central Canada. (Courtesy Tropical Tidbits/Levi Cowan)

WASHINGTON — It might be sunny on Thanksgiving, but that won’t do much to keep the cold at bay.

Much of the northeastern U.S. will find itself stuck in a deep freeze on Thursday, with some parts of the D.C. area likely pushing record low temperatures until Friday morning.

Thursday will be the coldest Thanksgiving in decades for most of the Northeast, the result of an Arctic blast of air that’s pushing temperatures 15 to 25 degrees colder than a year ago.

D.C. activated its cold weather emergency plan from Wednesday through daybreak on Friday, providing warming sites to the public and overnight shelters for the homeless. See a full list of D.C.’s cold weather services and supports.

Thursday will be blustery, and extreme cold combined with a frigid, northerly wind spell out a potentially dangerous situation. Wind chills will be in the mid-to-low teens near D.C. on Thursday evening and the National Weather Service (NWS) warns that frostbite could affect exposed skin within minutes.

Maryland officials announced a hypothermia-related death in Garrett County Wednesday evening — the state’s first cold weather-related death of the season. Officials urged travelers to pack cold-weather emergency car kits, including blankets, warm clothes, an ice scraper and food and water.

“Frostbite can happen in minutes, especially on the extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and ears but can affect any area of exposed skin,” the NWS says. “If you must go out, try to cover every part of your body.” Read more on cold weather safety from the NWS.

At fault for the possible record-shattering lows is a blast of arctic air, rushing southward across southeastern Canada from Hudson Bay. That air mass caused mild temperatures to plummet before freezing on Wednesday evening, and will hold them there until a coastal storm ushers in warmer air from the south on Saturday.

“The culprit is a powerful Arctic cold front plowing through the area tonight,” said NBC Washington meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli. “Although this will not bring any rainfall, it will open the gates for northerly winds to usher in the coldest air since last February.”

If it’s cold in D.C. on Thursday, though, it could be worse — a lot worse. Portions of upstate New York, New Hampshire and Vermont could see temperatures as low as 10 degrees below zero — not including the wind chill. Overall, it’s shaping up to be the coldest Thanksgiving day along the East Coast in over two decades.

Highs throughout the Northeast on Thanksgiving Day. While D.C. will hover around freezing during the day, some parts of New England won’t climb above single digits — not including wind chill. (Courtesy Pivotal Weather)


Thanksgiving Day: Mostly sunny, but unseasonably cold and blustery. Highs in the low to mid-30s.

Tonight: Mostly clear. Not as windy, but still freezing. Lows in the mid-20s, with even colder temperatures likely in northern Maryland.

Friday: Mostly to partly sunny. Cold, but not as blustery. Highs in the upper 30s to low 40s.

Saturday: Heavy rain arriving by midday. More seasonable, with highs in the upper 40s to 50s. Gusts to 40 miles per hour possible on the Eastern Shore.

Sunday: Cloudy early, then clearing through the afternoon. Mild, with highs near 60.

Current conditions:

WTOP’s Jennifer Ortiz, Will Vitka and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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