Flash freeze in DC area: power outages, heavy rain, wind chill

Wednesday was the winter solstice, but Friday felt like the first real day of winter as snow arrived in the D.C. area, setting the stage for an Arctic holiday weekend.

A flash freeze with heavy rain and flooding came through the region Thursday night into Friday morning.

Wind damage was a big problem Friday afternoon, with winds gusting to 54 mph at Dulles, 51 mph at Gaithersburg and 46 mph at Reagan National, according to Storm Team4 meteorologist Mike Stinneford.

Cold and dangerous wind chills took place throughout Friday, and Storm Team4 meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli said the culprit was a powerful low-pressure center over the Midwest.

The cold front started moving into the region around 8 a.m. Friday before moving east and south.

In its wake, things have turned windy and sharply colder with temperatures in the teens and lower 20s.

Friday started off cloudy, with temperatures starting in the 40s. It had been raining all morning, a continuation from Thursday night, followed by the eastward-sweeping Arctic cold front.

“As winds shift from the south to the west behind the front, bitter air will flood into the area and the rain showers may end as snow showers in the mid-late morning but we do not expect much accumulation,” Prinzivalli said.

Friday night has temperatures plummeting into the 20s, with whipping winds of up to 20 to 30 mph, and gusts of 40 to 50 mph.

A Wind Chill Advisory for the D.C. area is in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday – the first one since 2019, Prinzivalli said.

The combination of frigid air and nasty winds will produce bone-chilling and dangerous wind chills below zero Friday evening and into early Saturday.


As temperatures continue to tumble, some residents have experienced power outages.

Pepco is reporting outages in D.C. as well as north of the capitol near Germantown and Gaithersburg. A total of 276 Pepco customers were without power as of Friday afternoon with a majority being in Montgomery County. Baltimore Gas and Electric company reported 1,045 customers without power.

Outages have also been reported in Virginia, including in Alexandria and Arlington where Dominion Energy reports between 1,000 and 2,000 customers experiencing outages.

If you get caught without power, Dominion Energy spokeswoman Peggy Fox says to make or grab your emergency kit, fire up your generator if you have one, and check in on your neighbors. If all else fails, pack a bag and try to safely brave the roads.

“It is good to know where your medication is. While it’s light outside, make sure you gather things together,” Fox said. “Check on your neighbors … check on your loved ones. Please make sure you have plans to go somewhere else if it gets too cold in your house.”

Make sure you also report the outage to your local energy provider.

For those dealing with power outages and low heat, Chief Spokesperson for Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service Pete Piringer says that you should plan ahead, especially on the roadways.

On the roads

WTOP’s Chad Merrill says there’s one thing to keep in mind with this type of weather pattern: it will definitely produce some potholes in about a week. “The large fluctuation in temperatures, freezing and thawing cycle of the pavement over the next week, with all the moisture trapped in the pavement from our recent deluge, will be just as bad as having the melting and thawing cycle with a blockbuster snowstorm.”

Some electrical lines and trees have already been downed by blustery winds. Earlier this morning, a vehicle crashed into a downed tree on the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway, causing a blockage on the road for over an hour.

As always, drive carefully and defensively, keeping an eye out for black ice, potholes and fallen trees or lines.

Keep up to date with the current traffic by checking in with WTOP Traffic.

Any chance for a white Christmas?

What’s the likelihood of snow for Christmas? It would be a miracle, but the forecast for the holiday weekend will be “nasty cold,” Prinzivalli said.

Clouds will give way to feeble sunshine Christmas Eve, with temperatures struggling to reach the middle 20s and gusty winds that will place wind chills near zero and the single digits.

Christmas Day will be sunny but frigid, with highs in the 20s and wind chills in the teens.

High pressure, the source of the arctic air mass, will settle into the area for the new workweek. With that added pressure, the winds will diminish, but it will still be cold, with highs in the lower 30s Monday and then the middle 30s Tuesday.


Friday Night: Clear, windy and colder. Lows from 0 to 10 above. Wind chills as low as 20 below.

Saturday, Christmas Eve: Partly cloudy, windy and cold. Highs in the low to mid-20s. Wind chills in the single digits and teens.

Sunday, Christmas Day: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid- to upper 20s.

Monday: Mostly sunny and a little warmer. Highs in the mid-30s.

Tuesday: Partly cloudy with highs around 40 degrees.

Current weather

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this story.

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Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is a freelance digital writer/editor at WTOP. She is a recent graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

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