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Record Alaska Storm to Usher Cold Air, Lake-Effect Snow to Eastern US

By By Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist
December 17, 2015, 5:35:26 AM EST

The record-tying strongest storm to impact Alaska will be responsible for ushering one of the coldest air masses so far this season into the Midwest and Eastern United States.

The powerful storm strengthened over the weekend across the Bering Sea, tying the record for the strongest storm to ever impact the region.

On Saturday night, the Ocean Prediction Center analyzed the central area of low pressure to be 924 millibars (27.29 inches of Hg) over the Bering Sea. That matches the central pressure of ex-Super Typhoon Nuri from a little over a year ago.

Drier Air across the Northeast


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This storm, however, did not set the lowest pressure level recorded on Alaskan soil. According to the National Weather Service in Anchorage, that record stands at 925 millibars (27.32 inches of Hg) at Dutch Harbor in 1977.

“The intensity of a storm is measured by the central pressure, with the lower pressure equating to a stronger system,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.

Wave heights were in excess of 40 feet in the Bering Sea, while winds gusted to 122 mph at Adak Island, Alaska, on Saturday night.

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The storm will remain noteworthy as it opens the door for cold air to pour into the Midwest and East.

“A piece of the storm that’s been pummeling Alaska will break off and dive southeastward across Canada by midweek,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson said. “This piece will help the jet stream dig southward and finally allow chilly air to invade the eastern United States late this week.”

The impending cold could rival November for the lowest temperature readings so far this season from Friday into this weekend. Brisk winds will bring even lower AccuWeather RealFeel Temperatures®.


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The core of the cold will focus on the Upper Midwest with temperatures likely to be held below freezing for at least two consecutive days from Chicago to Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota. For the latter city, temperatures may not climb out of the teens.

While residents will be turning up the heat and reaching for winter jackets, the impending cold is not anything unusual for December.

“Even though it will feel much colder than the balmy temperatures of late, afternoon high temperatures will still be near average at the height of the chill this weekend,” Thompson said.

“From New York City to Washington, D.C., every day so far this month has been above-average temperature-wise.”


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New York City was among the many locations that registered a record high over the weekend.

The cold air will bring the chance for snow, a boost for ski resorts and those missing winterlike scenes.

“The air [flowing over the unusually warm Great Lakes] will be more than cold enough to produce lake-effect snow,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. “The lake-effect snow looks to be most widespread Friday afternoon and night with some snow continuing with the northwest flow on Saturday.”

The lake-effect snow could be intense in some locations.

However, Samuhel does not expect this lake-effect to be a long duration event with extreme totals.

“The snow bands will likely shift around quickly as winds go from southwesterly during the day [on Friday] to northwesterly at night,” Samuhel said. “So, while there will be heavy snow within the bands, it will not sit over one location very long.”

Snow showers will also stream into the Appalachian Mountains. Snow will likely struggle to fall east of the mountains, unless a storm takes shape along the coast as the cold air arrives. Even then, the better opportunity for snow would be in New England.

"The colder air will allow an opportunity for snowmaking this weekend," According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "However, the recurring warmth will make it difficult for the ski resorts to keep snow on the slopes for very long through the holidays."

While it will finally feel like December next weekend, residents should be prepared for another surge of warmth in store for the week of Christmas.

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