WASHINGTON — Winter officially starts Friday evening, but if you’re on the move for the holidays, spring-like temperatures and a chance for thunderstorms might make it hard to believe.
What NBC Washington meteorologist Chuck Bell dubbed a “massive storm moving up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains” is sure to cause travel woes from the Mid-Atlantic into New England through Saturday. If you’re traveling this weekend, plan accordingly.
“Holiday travel will be severely impacted, so leave early and expect widespread delays whether you’re driving, flying or taking the train,” Bell said. Thankfully, none of the major air hubs in the D.C. area were reporting significant delays from storms or rogue drones on Friday morning according to FlightAware, but the nasty weather was far from over.
Amtrak trains were running again after a power outage near D.C.’s Union Station temporarily suspended service late Thursday night. Service resumed about four hours later, but Amtrak says passengers should expect residual delays.
It’ll be near 60 degrees with lingering showers around 5:23 p.m. Friday, when the Northern Hemisphere officially reaches winter solstice — the North Pole’s furthest tilt away from the Sun, ushering in the longest night of the year.
Steady rain on Friday morning will gradually give way to tapering showers, with unseasonably high temperatures due to warm air being funneled in from the Gulf of Mexico. With a series of low pressure systems moving along the East Coast, coupled with a sharp bounding of mixing warm and cold air masses over the area, rain is the forecast until late Friday.
Likewise, a Flood Watch is in effect for the WTOP listening area until 6 p.m. on Friday.
“Total rainfall amounts around 1 to 2 inches are most likely, but locally higher amounts around 3 to 4 inches are possible,” the National Weather Service said on Friday.
“Soils remain saturated due to recent rainfall, so excess runoff from the rain will cause the potential for flooding of small streams, creeks, and urban areas through this afternoon.”
Flooding won’t be major, but the rain will be intense enough to cause issues on roads near streams and rivers, even after the weather clears. The latest river forecasts had the Potomac rising into minor flood stage from Maryland into D.C., meaning low-lying areas of the Waterfront including Rock Creek Parkway could see some high water this weekend.
Rivers are on the rise through much of our basin due to the heavy rain. Here is an estimate of how much fell between 5 am Thu and 5 am Fri. pic.twitter.com/k1XSeR5B9V
— NWS MARFC (@NWSMARFC) December 21, 2018
The rain should let up across much of the area around midday, but a second downpour was looking likely just in time for Friday evening commute — when there’s even a chance of an isolated thunderstorm somewhere in the D.C. area, thanks to an unstable atmosphere, four days before Christmas.
Friday night will be breezy, with cooler air rushing in from the west. Gusts of over 40 miles per hour possible, especially along the Blue Ridge and coastal portions of the Delmarva and Chesapeake Bay.
“Stronger winds are expected along the ridge tops of the Blue Ridge and Potomac Highlands,” NWS said in a Friday morning forecast discussion, “so a Wind Advisory is in effect for those areas.” Colder and drier air will quickly overspread the region overnight on Friday, with Saturday expected to be blustery with highs dropping into the 40s.
Friday: Steady rain for morning commute, tapering to scattered showers late morning. Showers and isolated thunderstorms possible between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s.
Saturday: Blustery, cooler and less humid. Partly cloudy, with temperatures gradually falling into the 40s through the afternoon.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with highs in the upper 40s. Winds calming.
Monday: Mostly sunny, highs in the mid 40s.
Christmas Day: Mostly sunny, with highs in the mid 40s. No white Christmas this year. Sorry, D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.