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Dave Epstein

This Thanksgiving could be Boston’s coldest ever

There’s little doubt that the daylight hours of this year’s Thanksgiving will be the coldest ever recorded in Boston.
There’s little doubt that the daylight hours of this year’s Thanksgiving will be the coldest ever recorded in Boston. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

This could be a record-setting Thanksgiving.

Years from now, people will be talking about the cold Thanksgiving of 2018 that we are about to endure. There’s little doubt that the daylight hours of this year’s Thanksgiving will be the coldest ever recorded in Boston. (I say “daylight hours” because at midnight, the temperature may just be mild enough that official records aren’t set.)

Temperatures will continue to plummet throughout the early morning hours of Thursday. By the time many people wake up Thanksgiving morning, it will be in the upper single digits in the colder spots to mid-teens elsewhere — and temperatures really won’t go very high in the afternoon.

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Temperatures will fall dramatically Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Temperatures will fall dramatically Wednesday night and Thursday morning.(NOAA data)

The lead-in to all this cold air will be an arctic cold front pushing eastward Wednesday evening. These cold fronts are just like similar situations in the summer and can produce squalls. The difference is that this time of the year instead of rain, we see snow squalls. These are very hard to predict exactly where they’ll form, but the computer models are showing scattered snow squalls moving through southern New England as travelers are heading out of town Wednesday. These situations can bring very heavy snow for a brief period of time — maybe 10 or 20 minutes — but it’s a good idea to pull over and wait for them to pass, as this can be when accidents occur.

Squalls move through as the leading edge of arctic air arrives Wednesday. (COD Weather)

For Thanksgiving it’s going to be dry and cold with a gusty wind, making wind chill readings down in the single digits or even below zero at times. The air will be very dry, and if you haven’t put your humidifier on yet, you might want to do so — unless of course you’re cooking a lot, in which case all the moisture from the stove will help mitigate the dry arctic air.

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Wind chill Thursday morning will be around 0.
Wind chill Thursday morning will be around 0. (Dave Epstein)

Several of the football games typically played on Thanksgiving have been moved to Wednesday night, which I think is a great idea. This cold is severe enough that if you are exposed for an hour or longer, frostbite can result.

For that afternoon post-meal walk, temperatures will only be 15 to 20 degrees, and the wind will still be a factor.

All the stations with a circle are forecast to be close to a record-cold high temperature Thanksgiving.
All the stations with a circle are forecast to be close to a record-cold high temperature Thanksgiving.(WeatherBell)
Temperatures will stay in the teens in most areas on Thanksgiving.
Temperatures will stay in the teens in most areas on Thanksgiving. (Dave Epstein/NOAA data)

If you’re headed out shopping Thursday night or Friday morning, temperatures are going to be near record-cold, generally between 5 and 15 degrees. On Friday afternoon, the mercury will finally head toward 30 degrees, which is still colder than the average temperature in the middle of January.

Saturday is my pick for the next several days with temperatures near 45 and plenty of sunshine, which will set us up for another significant rain event starting Sunday. This could lead to river issues next week.


Follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom.