LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arctic air is on the way and will impact the Natural State later this week. Temperatures will be a little below average through Wednesday, but Thursday’s cold front will drop temperatures drastically and quickly.

Central Arkansas starts in the upper 30s Thursday morning. Scattered light rain showers will move in during the morning as temperatures gradually climb to nearly 50°F around midday. Then the cold front arrives, bringing a dramatic change.

As this frigid air arrives, it will likely transition from cold rain to snow. Some of this may come in the form of sleet. But regardless, we believe snow amounts will be limited due to the aggressive nature of this cold front. With such dry air, any lingering moisture behind the front will quickly evaporate.

TIMING: Light rain is expected for central Arkansas around noon to 2pm. If there is a quick transition from rain to sleet or snow, it is more likely from 3pm to 6pm. All precipitation should be cleared out of Arkansas by Thursday night. *Timing could alter some if the cold front speeds up*

While we expect minimal impacts in central Arkansas from a dusting of snow, some parts of northern Arkansas could have some issues with 1-3″ of snow Thursday. Any snow that falls there will stick around into Friday morning. The biggest impact is going to be the cold, with Friday the most frigid. Wind will also cause this snow to blow around, limiting visibility across parts of northwest and north Arkansas Thursday.

Winter Storm Watches go in effect Wednesday for South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Missouri and Wisconsin are under a Winter Storm Watch starting Thursday through Friday.

If you are driving or flying north of Arkansas starting Wednesday through Friday, there is a high chance your travel will be impacted.

Blizzard conditions will be possible for cities including: Sioux City, Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee & Minneapolis starting Wednesday farther west through Friday night farther east.

If you’re staying in Arkansas for the holidays, it will be blustery. A Wind Chill Watch goes in effect Thursday evening through Friday morning for much of north Arkansas. The watch area includes: Fayetteville, Bentonville, Eureka Springs, Huntsville, Jasper, Harrison, Mountain Home, Mountain View, Melbourne & Mount Pleasant. Farther east and south now includes: Heber Springs, Conway, Russellville, Batesville, Jonesboro & Searcy.

Wind Chill Watch in effect Thursday evening through Friday morning.

Frostbite could occur in 30 minutes, if people are not properly protected or bundled up. Wind gusts of 30-45mph are possible in the watch area with wind chill values as low as -15°F to -30°F.

Temperatures are forecast to drop to the single digits or below freezing in spots. But when you factor a strong northwest wind, wind chill values will make conditions extremely dangerous for anyone caught outdoors unprepared. Friday morning, we must dress for wind chills of -10°F to -15°F.

Sub-zero wind chills are likely across much of Arkansas, as well as surrounding states.

To make matters worse, this cold snap will last through the Christmas holiday as well. Outdoor faucets need to be covered and protected by or before Wednesday, December 21. Anyone traveling should protect their indoor pipes as well by opening bathroom cabinets and allowing a slow drip by Thursday night through Sunday morning.

It is likely Little Rock will have three days straight without climbing above freezing.

Afternoon highs only reach the upper teens Friday before returning to the single digits Saturday morning. Highs remain below freezing Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day.

This chart shows the coldest temperatures and wind chills that will be experienced each day.

STAY INFORMED

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The Arkansas Storm Team is a collaboration of two stations to bring you the largest weather team in the state when covering Arkansas weather.