If you want to sum up our weather for the first few days of the winter season in three words, those might fit. The days leading up to the Christmas holiday will feature a complex pattern that the models are still figuring out, but one that is going to bring inclement weather to a large part of the country. And the week following Christmas could be even crazier.
The big picture shows an active storm track with several deep cyclones in the nation's midsection and an increasing supply of cold air from Canada. Right now it doesn't look like any of these will turn into blockbuster snowstorms (except for lake effect snows around the Great Lakes), but the intensity of the surface lows will produce a lot of wind, rain, and possibly a round of severe storms.
Concerning the latter, we'll be watching that for Tuesday in our own area. The Storm Prediction Center has outlined a Slight Risk for severe storms just off to our south on Tuesday. I would expect that to change over the next two days as the forecast models have varied almost with each run. The way it looks today (Sunday) we will likely have a few rumblers move through Tuesday or Tuesday night, with a chance of some strong damaging winds. Any tornado threat looks like it will be south and west of us.
The setup on the models does show a fair amount of instability and enough upper level energy to generate a pretty good line of storms. But keep in mind this is the winter season and takes an extreme atmospheric situation to produce something like a tornado outbreak. That does not appear to be the case this time. You may recall that in November we had two events (17th and 23rd) where everything was initially forecast to be south of us, and we wound up with a few tornadoes nearly as far north as Columbus. But this is late December, and I doubt that this setup will bring a repeat as the threat should stay south near the Gulf coast. However, with the intensity of the surface lows and the large wind field surrounding them, we're going to have some strong gusts whether they come along with thunderstorms or not.
The timeline would bring a round of rain into south Georgia on Monday, probably missing Columbus as a cool air wedge continues to keep temperatures down and skies cloudy. Then we can wait until Tuesday for the next batch of showers as the storm system gets cranking, with the thunderstorms coming later Tuesday and/or Tuesday night. Rain could continue into Christmas Eve but should be gone by evening, setting the stage for a cool and blustery, but dry, Christmas Day (see map WPC rainfall forecast amounts).
Beyond Christmas, models want to bring increasing amounts of cold air into the central U.S. with the notion that it could drive pretty far south. It's going to mean snow for some as the storm track remains active, although keep in mind the models beyond 5 days are not always reliable in the details! The First Alert weather team will bring you frequent updates on the forecast through the holidays, so stay in touch.
Winter solstice happens this evening at 6:03 Eastern Time, making today our shortest daylight of the year.