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Looking back at one of our snowiest days on record two years ago

The storm dropped a foot to a foot and a half of snow on most of the region

Digging out from the December 9, 2018 snowstorm in the New River Valley

ROANOKE, Va. – Those born after December 9, 2018 have yet to experience an actual snowstorm in our area. Everything since has been very light to non-existent in areas like Lynchburg and Southside. On December 9, 2018, however, all of the pieces came together to give us one of our snowiest days on record.

Snow totals of a foot to a foot and a half were common across the area, with Roanoke seeing its snowiest day on record.

Snow totals from December 9, 2018

A reconstructed map of snow totals from across the area shows that some spots were close to two feet of snow with this one particular storm.

Reconstructed map of snow totals from the December 9, 2018 snowstorm

What I remember being so impressive about this storm was the duration and the rate at which snow was coming down. I hadn’t seen snow like that since I grew up in New York as a child!

It all came together in textbook fashion. High pressure was to the north to wedge the cold air in place at the surface, but that happens a lot. The key difference was the potent storm system that was bringing up Gulf moisture to ride over that cold air.

December 2018 snowstorm pattern analysis

The cold air and the moisture were both deep enough to keep this as an all snow event, which is pretty rare this far south. We often times see a mixed bag of rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, etc. (If you’re going to get a big one, though, it’s going to have to come from the south. Rarely do we get big snows out of the quick-moving storms that come in from the northwest.)

The rest of the winter went on to be pretty uneventful after that, and snow-lovers still await the arrival of another big storm. For Your Local Weather Authority’s 2020-2021 winter outlook, be sure to click here.


About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.