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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The First Warning Weather team is tracking the strongest Arctic cold front of the season thus far, forecast to send temperatures tumbling just before Christmas weekend.

While temperatures are currently chillier than normal across Texas and will remain so through the middle of next week, the Arctic blast we are tracking is forecast to arrive in our area Thursday morning (Dec. 22), just after winter officially begins on Wednesday.

The cold front’s passage will leave a strong northwest wind that will gust as high as 40-45 mph Thursday afternoon and evening.

Friday morning, it is likely that we wake up to our first widespread hard freeze of the season. The last time Austin had a low temperature in the 20s was March 12 (28°). Low temperatures may even fall into the 10s.

  • In-Depth: A hard freeze is defined as temperatures falling below 28 degrees for several hours or longer, which can be especially harmful to sensitive plants.
Potential morning lows Friday

Even more brutal than the air temperature is the wind chill temperature. Winds may gust over 40 mph late Thursday after the front’s arrival. With northerly winds Friday morning potentially still gusting between 25 to 35 mph, frigid wind chills will fall to the single-digits and or even just below zero. This can be dangerous to people and pets spending any significant amount of time outdoors.

Forecast wind chill temperatures Friday morning

It appears we may have two consecutive hard freezes on the mornings of Dec. 23 and Dec. 24. Temperatures may moderate slightly by Christmas Day, but could still be freezing cold early Dec. 25 and only reach the upper 40s to near 50 degrees Christmas afternoon.

Lows temperatures below freezing on Christmas Eve morning

Will it snow?

While the atmospheric profile will certainly be cold enough to support snow as the dominant precipitation type during this cold snap, we are currently expecting dry weather during that period.

Satellite look at Christmas Eve morning

Try to resist sharing social media posts that show heavy snowfall totals across central Texas over Christmas weekend. While long-range models have occasionally suggested accumulating snow in recent outputs, computer model ensembles (more reliable in these situations) and computer model trends are not showing any signs of a major winter storm whatsoever.

How to prepare for a hard freeze

During a freeze — especially a hard freeze — it is imperative to protect pets, pipes, plants and people. While plumbing in northern areas of the U.S. is buried deep underground and designed to weather subfreezing temperatures for long periods of time, construction in our area is not.

Follow these tips during freezing temperatures from Austin Water:

  • Protect indoor faucets: Open cabinets beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes. Be sure to remove any toxic substances located in these cabinets if there are children or pets living in the residence.
  • Drip only if needed: After the measures above are taken, drip one cold-water faucet slowly if you feel your pipes may still freeze. The faucet you choose should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main shutoff valve. It does not need to be a running trickle. If you do drip your faucet, capture the water for future use.
  • Power outages: If you experience a power outage for more than 24 hours, stop dripping your faucets and turn off your water at the meter.

Stay with the KXAN First Warning Weather team and download the KXAN Weather app for updates on the wintry temperatures.