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On This Day In History: Record-breaking snowfall blankets SW Virginia in 2018

The rare early season snow storm dropped over a foot of snow in many areas
Over a foot of snow covered the Roanoke Valley.
Over a foot of snow covered the Roanoke Valley.(WDBJ Weather)
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 7:08 PM EST
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(WDBJ) - Three years ago, Southwest Virginia was hit with a rare, early-season snowstorm on December 9th. For many hometowns, it was the earliest foot of snow ever recorded.

All of our primary record keeping stations including Roanoke, Danville and Blacksburg, saw the snowiest day ever recorded in December. On a Sunday in December, snow came down hard and continued to fall past midnight early Monday. Let’s break down the impressive snow event!

How the storm formed

A low pressure system developed and moved east through the southern US. As it moved closer to the East Coast, it strengthened and pulled moisture from the Gulf and the Atlantic. At the same time, deep cold air sank over Virginia thanks to a strong high to the north.

For our region, this was the perfect set-up for a big snow storm.

The low developed and strengthened out of the south with perfect placement for big snow over...
The low developed and strengthened out of the south with perfect placement for big snow over our region.(NWS Blacksburg)

A record-setting storm

Though there have been bigger snowstorms during other parts of the winter. The 2018 December storm was notable for how early it was and how much fell in just one day.

15 inches of snow fell on that Sunday in Roanoke. The previous closest record-setting day was on Christmas 1969. It was the earliest in the season Roanoke experienced a foot or more of snow. In Lynchburg, Danville and Blacksburg, the story was the same.

Many picked up well over a foot of snow.
Many picked up well over a foot of snow.(WDBJ Weather)

We should remind you that December 2018 was a mild month overall. The system was just a case where everything fell in place: cold air to the north, plenty of moisture, and a well placed system out of the south.

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