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Winter Storm Watches issued for Wednesday’s storm

Significant snow and ice accumulation may cause travel problems Wednesday.
Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 3:57 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 1:37 AM EST
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As our first system exits, snow showers are falling in parts of the NRV and Highlands. This is NOT the winter storm that we’re talking about. This is the back edge of today’s rain event. The bigger, organized winter storm will arrive Wednesday.

WINDS INCREASE THIS AFTERNOON

As the rain moves out, the winds increase. Rainfall amounts have generally been in the expected .50″ to 2″ range. At this time cold air looks to move in late and any snow mixing in will mainly stay along the western slope. Sky conditions look to improve during the afternoon with highs in the 40s.

Winds remain strong through the rest of the evening, diminishing some overnight.
Winds remain strong through the rest of the evening, diminishing some overnight.(WDBJ7)

TUESDAY

Tuesday will be chilly, dry, and sunny. Highs look to only reach the upper 30s to lower 40s. Colder air moves in for Tuesday night with lows in the 20s. With the cold air in place this could set us up for snow Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY

We will be watching another wet system moving in by the middle of the week leading to a significant day-long winter weather event. WINTER STORM WATCHES have already been issued in advance of the storm and cover most areas along either side of the 460 corridor and points north and west.

A Winter Storm Watch means significant snow and/or ice accumulation may lead to travel problems.
A Winter Storm Watch means significant snow and/or ice accumulation may lead to travel problems.(WDBJ7)

OVERVIEW & MODELS

It’s rare we have a slam dunk, all snow forecast for our area. This won’t be one of them. For now it appears likely that parts of our area will see significant snow totals, likely north into the Alleghany Highlands and WV mountains. For the rest of the region, temperatures (both on the ground, and in the clouds) will play a big role in what type of precipitation could fall through the day Wednesday.

A more westerly track would lead to warmer temperatures aloft and less snow for our area. At this time, it appears that is where models are trending. Ultimately, this looks like an impactful mixed bag system with snow, sleet and freezing rain along with some plain rain toward the southside.

STORM TIMING

The mix of sleet and snow begins between 5am and 7am Wednesday morning and lasts throughout the day, tapering off late Wednesday night.

A mix of precipitation is expected Wednesday. More likely all snow in the Highlands, and mostly...
A mix of precipitation is expected Wednesday. More likely all snow in the Highlands, and mostly a rain/mix across the Southside as warm air move in.(WDBJ7)

WHAT TO EXPECT

Totals will vary from place-to-place because of of the wide array of precipitation types that will occur. This is a very challenging forecast in terms of amounts since mixing is expected. Sleet/rain/ice can eat away totals significantly. Here’s a breakdown of the basics.

PRECIPITATION TYPESNOW & ICE AMOUNT
ROANOKE VALLEY
Roanoke, Bedford, Franklin, Botetourt, Smith Mountain Lake
Mostly snow to start with a rain/snow line developing nearby. A mix is possible at any point during the day1-3 inches of snow/sleet mix possible. Ice: Glaze
CENTRAL VIRGINIA
Lynchburg, Appomattox, Campbell, Amherst
A rain/snow line will develop nearby so a mix is possible at any point during the day1-3 inches of snow/sleet mix possible. Ice: Glaze
SOUTHSIDE
Danville, Martinsville, South Boston, Charlotte Court House
Early morning freezing rain, changing to mostly rain by afternoon.Mostly rain; Ice: 1/4″ or less.
NEW RIVER VALLEY
Blacksburg, Radford, Wytheville, Pearisburg, Marion
Snow to start mixing with sleet at times during the day.2-4 inches of snow & sleet mix. Locally highest toward VA/WV border. Ice: <1/4″
HIGHLANDS
Covington, Clifton Forge, Lexington
Nearly all snow event; Snow could fall heavily at times.Significant snowfall expected. 5-9″ possible. Ice: Very little
The highest snowfall totals remain in the Highlands and along the I-64 corridor, with lesser...
The highest snowfall totals remain in the Highlands and along the I-64 corridor, with lesser amounts toward the Southeast.(WDBJ7)

ICE POTENTIAL

Along with the snow and rain, ice (freezing rain) remains a possibility. While we are NOT expecting this to be a huge ice storm, just don’t be surprised to see a light glaze of ice along road signs and elevated objects.

Along with the snow and rain, ice (freezing rain) remains a possibility.
Along with the snow and rain, ice (freezing rain) remains a possibility.(WDBJ7)

THE REST OF THE WEEK

Cold air looks to remain in place into the weekend. Highs will linger in the 30s and 40s with lows in the teens and 20s.