Chicago Forecast

Chicago's Christmas Could be One of the Coldest on Record

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While most Chicago-area residents will be paying attention to forecasts of snow and travel hazards later this week, the Christmas Day outlook could call for one of the coldest holidays on record in the city.

According to current forecast models, this week’s winter storm will likely be followed by a period of bitter cold, with high temperatures dropping into the single-digits and wind chills plunging well below zero over the weekend.

As of Monday afternoon, the NBC 5 Storm Team is forecasting a high temperature of 9 degrees on Christmas, and while that would not be the coldest holiday on record, it would crack the top-five at least.

The coldest Christmas on record took place on Dec. 25, 1983, when the high temperature was a staggering minus-5 degrees at O’Hare International Airport.

The second-coldest occurred just two years later in 1985, when the high temperature was 2 degrees.

Paul Deanno has the latest forecast.

If Sunday’s forecast were to hold, it would be tied as the third-coldest Christmas in the last 50 years, and would be tied for the fourth-coldest Christmas on record, dating back to at least 1871.

It would match the 9-degree temperature recorded on Christmas Day in 1996.

Needless to say, this Christmas will be a significant departure from the last few years. In 2019, Chicago recorded a high temperature of 57 degrees on Christmas Day, making it the second-warmest Christmas on record. Last winter, the high temperature on Christmas was 55 degrees, the fifth-warmest on record.

For those more interested in the snow, it will in all likelihood be the first white Christmas in the city of Chicago since 2017, according to forecast models. According to the National Weather Service, Chicago has only gotten white Christmases, defined as having at least one inch of snow on the ground, around 41% of the time since 1871.

That snow will come courtesy of a winter storm that is churning its way toward the area. A winter storm watch will go into effect on Thursday afternoon and will remain in effect through Friday night.

Heavy snow is possible with the storm, and an equally-grave threat will be the wind, as gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour could cause massive drifts and extremely-dangerous travel conditions across the area as people prepare for the holiday season.

Download the NBC Chicago app for all the latest weather news and alerts, and stay tuned to the NBC 5 newscasts for up-to-date forecasts and information.

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