Warmer temperatures ahead in Philadelphia after record-breaking cold snap

A view of the Philadelphia skyline from the 52nd Street station on the Market-Frankford elevated line in West Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A 2019 view of the Philadelphia skyline from the 52nd Street Station on the Market-Frankford Elevated line in West Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Philadelphia region is expected to get a break from freezing weather and aggressive wind gusts this week.

Bookended by a record-cold Christmas weekend and what’s predicted to be an unseasonably warm New Year’s weekend, temperatures in the area are forecasted to steadily climb over the course of the next few days.

Wind gusts have already subsided as of Monday afternoon, and Tuesday is predicted to bring above-freezing temperatures, said Alex Dodd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. On Wednesday, the forecast calls for 40-plus-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, sunny skies, and light winds.

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The weather is slated to become even warmer Thursday and Friday, and temperatures could reach well into the 50s Saturday and Sunday.

Clouds and rain — though unlikely severe — are expected to ring in the New Year, Dodd said, so people should keep that in mind when planning their celebrations.

“All in all, it’ll be a good week to be outside doing outdoor activities following this chill,” Dodd said.

The relatively warm weather will follow a dramatic cold snap that hit the Philadelphia area on Christmas weekend, which included record-breaking cold temperatures and strong winds up to 30 miles per hour.

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Saturday’s high at Philadelphia International Airport — 18 degrees — was the coldest on record for Christmas Eve in Philadelphia, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record of 21 degrees was set in 1906 and matched in 1989.

The low that morning, 7 degrees, was among the coldest weather the region has seen at all for the past few years, Dodd said. Temperatures dropped to 5 degrees one day in January 2019.

Christmas Day also brought colder-than-average weather. The average temperature in Philadelphia across the day this year was 23.5 degrees, according to Dodd — the 15th coldest Dec. 25 across the National Weather Service’s 150 years of records.

Moving forward, though, the upcoming warm weather is predicted to fall a few degrees short of a record on the other end of the temperature spectrum: the high temperature record for New Year’s Day, which was 64 degrees in 2005.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could go from setting a coldest high temperature record on Christmas Eve to a warmest high temperature record for New Year’s Day itself,” Dodd said.

While the Philadelphia area didn’t experience any heavy precipitation over Christmas weekend, other regions of the country did.

Philadelphia International Airport — which projects its holiday travel crowd between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3 to include 980,000 passengers — still experienced the impact of the faraway weather: numerous delays and cancellations. PHL saw over 130 canceled flights on Friday and 39 on Saturday, said airport spokesperson Heather Redfern.

“Once those big, major airports in the country are impacted, then that has a ripple effect for a few days after as the airlines try to get their operations back up,” Redfern said. “So what we’re seeing now is the result of those cancellations and delays out of other airports at the end of last week.”

The backlog seems to be clearing out now as the airport hits its projected busiest days of the season, according to Redfern. The airport expects 79,000 travelers to depart or arrive from PHL on Monday, Dec. 26 and Tuesday, Dec. 27.

“Just pay attention to what’s going on, and definitely just stay in touch with your airline,” Redfern said.

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