Cincinnati Braces for 'Bomb Cyclone' Winter Storm Before Christmas

The National Weather Service is calling the storm a "once-in-a-generation type event."

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click to enlarge Bundle up, Cincinnati, because it's about to become extremely cold. - Photo: Sean Foster, Unsplash
Photo: Sean Foster, Unsplash
Bundle up, Cincinnati, because it's about to become extremely cold.

Cincinnati may get a white Christmas this weekend, but it probably won't be the charming kind shown in films.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington is predicting bitter, life-threatening cold over the next few days for Greater Cincinnati as part of what's being billed as Winter Storm Elliot. The storm already is affecting parts of the United States and is expected to rage throughout the Midwest this week and over the holiday weekend. It will evolve into a "bomb cyclone," meteorologists say, which is when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass and rapidly strengthens.

"Places across the northern Rockies, northern Plains and upper Midwest are experiencing temperature drops by tens of degrees in minutes," NPR reported.

The National Weather Service is bracing Ohio residents for the "once-in-a-generation type event" and already has issued a winter storm warning from 7 p.m. Dec. 22 to 5 p.m. Dec. 23 as well as a wind chill warning from 1 a.m. Dec. 23 to 4 a.m. Dec. 24 for west-central Ohio plus east-central and southeast Indiana. There is a winter warning watch in place for the I-71 corridor, recently upgraded from a watch. Kentucky has preemptively declared a state of emergency.

"A potent cold front moves through the area Thursday night into Friday morning, bringing strong winds, bitterly cold temperatures, & blowing snow. Winds will gust up to 40-50 MPH. This, combined with temperatures falling to below 0F, will lead to wind chills near -30F," the NWS said on Twitter at 4:19 a.m. Dec. 22 .
In its forecasters' discussion at 6:38 a.m. Dec. 22, the NWS said rain is expected throughout Thursday as the storm intensifies. Temperatures likely will plummet to below 0° Thursday night with flash freezing possible, causing icy conditions. Cincinnati and the Tri-State will transition to blowing snow, with the region expected to see 1-4 inches through Friday. Meanwhile, winds will get stronger with gusts up to 50 MPH, the NWS said

To illustrate the fast temperature drop, the Wilmington office shared a Dec. 21 post from the NWS in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where temperatures plunged from 43° to 3° within just 30 minutes, saying that Cincinnati likely was in for the same thing.
The fun could continue on Dec. 24, with the NWS saying that gusts of 30MPH will continue. On Christmas, Cincinnati could be stuck with 0°-20° temps, with minor precipitation possible the following day. Things won't return to a less-dreadful state until Dec. 27 or 28, the agency predicted.

What does it mean for Cincinnati?

The rapid flux in temperatures and weather conditions likely will result in difficulty on the road, the NWS said.

"Plan on slippery road conditions. Patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute," the agency said in a Dec. 22 forecast, adding that drivers should avoid traveling when possible while also keeping a flashlight, food and water in the vehicle for emergencies.

Cincinnati's public alert system sent text warnings about the storm on Dec. 21 and 22, and city manager Sheryl Long shared resources for observing frostbite and hypothermia. In a release, city officials said that road crews with the traffic and road operations division will begin reporting at 7 p.m. Thursday. Jarrod Bolden, the division's superintendent, strongly suggested that residents stay home during the storm so that crews can treat the streets.

Cincinnati residents can monitor main and neighborhood roads in real-time through the city's snow plow tracker. The tracker shows the time of the most recent treatment, and the data is searchable by time range, street name and neighborhood. Residents can also call the department of public services at 513-591-6000 to get street information or provide information about weather-related incidents on the roads.

The Cincinnati Recreation Commission's 23 community centers will serve as warming stations during business hours beginning Dec. 22, while the Corryville Recreation Center will be open10 a.m.-6 p.m.  Dec. 24-26. For additional resources, residents can call 311 or 513-765-1212 and visit 311cincy.com.

Many businesses entertainment options have announced on social media that they'll fully close or will have reduced hours due to the coming storm. 


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