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A white Christmas? Most of the state anticipating several inches of snow and dangerous temperatures

AAA Wisconsin expects 2.2 million Wisconsinites will travel this holiday season

Cars and semis pass by a sign in the middle of the interstate highway.
Vehicles travel on Interstate 39/90 on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in southern Rock County, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Much of Wisconsin will likely see a white Christmas this year, but meteorologists are also expecting snowfall and cold temperatures to impact travel this holiday season.

It’s not yet clear exactly how much snow is headed Wisconsin’s way, but the National Weather Service says the southern region of the state will likely get more than 6 inches of snowfall later this week.

The snow will arrive just as Wisconsinites are getting ready to travel for the holidays. A report from AAA Wisconsin estimates 2.2 million Wisconsinites will journey 50 miles or more from home from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2. That’s the state’s third-highest total on record for that travel period.

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“It does look like if things play out as currently expected, we’ll likely see some pretty significant travel impacts across a good portion of the Midwest,” said Andy Boxell, a meteorologist for the weather service in Sullivan.

Cars and semis drive on an interstate highway past a snowy landscape.
Vehicles travel on Interstate 39/90 on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in southern Rock County, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Snow is expected to start falling Wednesday night and could continue into Friday, according to Boxell.

Weather forecast models expect winds to pick up on Thursday and Friday. The snow is expected to be light and fluffy, Boxell said, saying high winds and fluffy snow can be a dangerous combination.

“In addition to the snow itself, a lot of blowing and drifting is looking likely during that time period, which will have a pretty significant impact on travel across the region,” he said. “Wherever those wind gusts match up with the areas of heaviest snowfall, we would expect travel to be very difficult across the area.”

Dangerously cold temperatures are also expected in much of state on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Boxell said some areas could see wind chills from 20 to 25 below zero degrees this weekend.

Acccording to the weather service, a person can get frostbite in just 30 minutes outdoors in those weather conditions.

“Certainly (this is) the type of cold where folks are going to want to take precautions and check on neighbors, make sure pets are inside and if they do travel during that time period, that they take the proper precautions to be safe,” Boxell said.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is already communicating with weather services in preparation for the weekend.

“We communicate with them frequently, especially leading up to storms like this,” said Randy Hoyt, the traffic management unit supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Hoyt said the best way for residents to see road conditions before they leave is to check the 511Wisconsin website, for the most up-to-date travel information.

“When the event happens, 511 Wisconsin is a great resource to be able to view up-to-date winter road conditions on 14,000 miles statewide,” Hoyt said.

The storm could also impact air travel.

Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport is expecting nearly 200,000 visitors from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2.

Stephanie Staudinger, marketing and public relations coordinator for Mitchell Airport, said the snow removal team at the airport is always ready for winter storms.

She’s encouraging travelers to check with the airline directly for up-to-date delay or flight cancelation information.

“Even if things are smooth and ready to go here, we don’t always know what’s happening in other states with weather,” she said.